French President Emmanuel Macron used his traditional New Year's Eve speech as a very direct warning to the ‘Yellow Vest’ protesters, without ever naming their movement during his comments broadcast around France.
Mr Macron, standing up while delivering and seen making angry arm gestures, sounded a warning to the French, claiming that ‘extreme elements’ had started to mingle among what he called ‘anti-government protesters.’
The French President furthermore promised to keep order "without complacency" and decried the self-appointed "spokespeople for a hateful mob."
The ‘Yellow Vest’ movement has been protesting in most French cities for seven weeks now, forcing Mr Macron’s government to make concessions in terms of taxes and benefits payments. He also had to refocus his attention to domestic matters whilst he had profiled himself as a new European leader in his first year in office.
So far, six people have died and some 1,400 have been injured since the widespread protests over fuel tax rises erupted.
Jews, foreigners and homosexuals
The French President suggested that the anger at the root of the "yellow vest" unrest, so named because of the high-visibility vests worn by protesters, showed France was "not resigned" and wanted to "build a better future."
Then, in a surprise turn, he claimed that the movement had by now been hijacked by extreme elements who sought to speak "in the name of the people."
“Those who claim to speak for the people, but in fact speak for a hateful mob - attacking elected representatives, security forces, journalists, Jews, foreigners, homosexuals - are quite simply the negation of France,” #France@Elysee@francediplo_ENhttps://t.co/cyldlKW3ZE
"In fact they are only the spokespeople of a hate-filled mob and they target elected politicians, the security forces, journalists, Jews, foreigners and homosexuals."
"It is quite simply the negation of France."
Warning French citizens of ‘fake news’ which he claimed was spreading, he reminded the French population "not to forget that you can build nothing on lies".
"In recent years, we've engaged in a blatant denial of reality," he said. "We can't work less, earn more, cut taxes and increase spending."
Left-wing and right-wing leaders in France felt they were being addressed by Mr Macron’s words and reacted harshly in response.
Mr Jean-Luc Mélenchon, of the left-wing political party ‘La France Insoumise’, claimed that the French ‘President of the rich had put up his smoke-screen once again,’ and urged him to ‘spread the wealth’ rather than to tax the poor.
Ms Marine Le Pen, leader of the right-wing Rassemblement National (the former Front National) went even further and claimed that ‘this President is an imposter… and a pyromaniac” (referring to the many fires which the French capital has seen in recent weeks).
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