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Over 250,000 protest over fuel prices in France

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Over 250,000 protest over fuel prices in France
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French officials say over a quarter of a million people across the country took part in protests against rising fuel taxes over the weekend. The rallies by the "Gilet Jaunes" or yellow vests, have been largely peaceful although there have been clashes with police in some places and over a hundred people have been arrested. The protests have drawn support from the left and right of the political spectrum.

Marine Le Pen, the leader of the country's far-right National Front party, said the protesters were ordinary French people:

"They are the French who work, who pay taxes, who never ask for anything, who never demand anything and who say today: stop, we can't stand this any longer!"

In a reference to the French Revolution, a tweet by the left-wing France Insoumise party hailed the power of the people over monarchs.

However, the government minister responsible for making France greener, François de Rugy, said nothing about reversing the changes, insisting there are problems that have to be addressed sooner rather than later.

"We are going to fix problems which were left high and dry for years, Rugy told French media. "The problem of our dependence on oil, on diesel engines, on cars, is a problem which was left high and dry for decades."

On Saturday a female protester was accidentally killed when a woman driver caught up in the blockade accelerated in panic and crashed into the crowd.

As well as the one death, there have also been 47 people injured, including three seriously, according to the French government.

The protests began at the end of last year after higher fuel taxes were introduced.

Recently they surged after petrol prices went up and now they have evolved into a wider movement against President Emmanuel Macron's government.

The yellow vests enjoy much broader support than other protests since Macron swept to power last year, with 73% of respondents backing the protests in an Elabe poll this week.

Analysts say the movement now represents more widespread frustration over stagnant spending power under Macron, a former investment banker who promised economic revival and to restore people's trust in government.

It also reflects longstanding anger among many in rural and small-town France who say the government in Paris doesn't understand the challenges facing the vast majority of the French.