French government urges end to protests after Strasbourg attack

Strasbourg: The French government on Thursday urged “yellow vest” protesters not to hold another round of demonstrations this weekend as police hunted for a second day for the fugitive gunman who attacked a Christmas market in the eastern city of Strasbourg.
Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux called on the anti-government protesters to be “reasonable”, citing the strain on security forces after the attack in Strasbourg on Tuesday evening.
Police across several European countries have launched a manhunt for the main suspect, a 29-year-old Strasbourg native, who killed two and injured 13 after opening fire on shoppers.
The suspected killer, identified as Cherif Chekatt, is thought to have been injured after exchanging fire with soldiers, but managed to escape and has not been seen since.
“Our security forces have been deployed extensively these past few weeks,” Griveaux told CNews television.
“It would be better if everyone could go about their business calmly on Saturday, before the year-end celebrations with their families, instead of demonstrating and putting our security forces to work once again,” he added.
So-called “yellow vest” protesters, known for their fluorescent high-visibility jackets, had called for a fifth round of protests this Saturday against President Emmanuel Macron.
The protests began on November 17 over fuel tax increases, but snowballed into a revolt over living standards
as well as Macron’s perceived indifference to the problems of ordinary citizens.
The appeal came as authorities announced that a sixth person had died since the start of the protests, after a 23-year-old was hit by a truck in southern France near Avignon.
Even before Tuesday’s attack in Strasbourg, the government had scrapped a fuel tax increase slated for January, a core demand of the protesters, who mainly live in rural areas and smaller towns and rely heavily on their cars.
Macron also announced a hike in the minimum wage, tax relief on overtime work and a rollback on taxes for many pensioners in a televised address to the nation on Monday night.
Last Saturday nearly 90,000 police were mobilised across the country for the protests, with 8,000 officers and a dozen armoured vehicles deployed in the capital, where scores of stores, museums and monuments were closed. — AFP