Macron urges dialogue amid protests, defends gas tax hikes

PARIS (AP) — France’s embattled President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday defended fuel tax hikes that have prompted nationwide protests, but called for “dialogue” to calm tensions.

In his first comments about the protests since more than a quarter million French drivers blocked roads Saturday, Macron acknowledged that it’s “normal” that people are expressing frustration.

He said he’s trying to “change habits” by weaning the French off fossil fuels, “which is never simple.” He reiterated promises of subsidies for low-income households to buy cleaner cars or switch to cleaner home heating methods.

He didn’t comment on protest violence. One protester was killed in a road accident Saturday and hundreds were injured.

Scattered protests continued Tuesday on roads across France by drivers who dub themselves the “yellow jackets” for the neon vests they don during roadside emergencies.

Macron, whose popularity has been sinking, was speaking at a university debate in Belgium, where student protesters unfurled a banner and threw papers in the auditorium. One protester shouted about protecting migrants and police violence against demonstrations.

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