Trump Uses Paris Protests as an Opportunity to Blast International Climate Agreement

He blamed the unrest on the 2015 Paris climate accord.

Rafael Yaghobzadeh/AP

French police clashed with “yellow vest” protesters in Paris on Saturday as country-wide demonstrations of President Emanuel Macron’s leadership and economic policies continued for the fourth consecutive weekend. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets across the country, and nearly 1,000 protesters have been arrested so far, reports the Associated Press.

The so-called “yellow vest” movement, named for the bright hazard vest every French driver is required to keep in the car, began in mid-November when nearly 300,000 French citizens swarmed the Paris streets to demand a drop in gas prices and relief from President Macron’s planned fuel tax. They say the tax put a particular strain on low- and middle-income residents of France’s suburbs and rural areas, where a lack of public transportation makes residents particularly reliant on cars. On Tuesday, French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced that the tax would be pushed back six months to allow for public discussion. “No tax is worth putting in danger the unity of the nation,” he said.

His comment didn’t stop thousands of demonstrators from descending on Paris on Saturday, where police responded on force with tear gas and water cannons. Though some of the protesters were violent anarchists known as “casseurs” who set fire to cars and ripped down barricades to storefronts, the majority of protesters—including those in Nice, Nantes, and Marseille—were peaceful. More than a hundred people have reportedly been injured in the day’s demonstrations.

The protests have broadened into general anger against the declining standard of living and dislike of France’s centrist president. Many French residents cluster around a median disposable household income that translates to roughly $31,000 a year. 

In tweets on Saturday morning, President Donald Trump blamed the unrest on the 2015 Paris climate accord, the sweeping international agreement that the United States withdrew from last year. He added that demonstrators were chanting, “We want Trump!” (There is no evidence of this chanting, CNN recently pointed out, noting that he may have been referring to a different protest in London.) The president also bragged that the United States is ahead of the curve on cutting carbon emissions. The US has reduced its CO2 emissions in recent years, most notably during the final two years of the Obama administration, but still has among the highest per capita emissions in the world.

French environmentalists argue the unrest is not a reaction to environmental policies overall, but to the fuel tax specifically, which they see as targeting low-income residents. “This is not the yellow vests against climate-change policies,” Pierre Cannet, the head of climate and energy at the French offices of the World Wildlife Federation, told The Atlantic. “It’s the yellow vests against the cost of living, the way politics are done, and how decision makers are doing policy.”