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Fresh 'ecotax' protests turn violent in Brittany

media Red cap protests over tax hikes in Breton, France AFP/Jean-Sebastien Evrard

Thousands of enraged food industry workers clad in red caps reminiscent of 17th century protests descended on western town of Quimper today in Brittany, France, sparking clashes and exchanges of stones and teargas between demonstrators and police.

The fresh clashes come just days after the government backed down on a controversial new road tax on trucks after protests last weekend in western France turned violent.

With mounting job losses in recent months, economic uncertainty has settled into a general malaise in Brittany and food sector workers and farmers are not ready to put down their pickets.

On Tuesday, the government suspended a planned “ecotax” on trucks transporting over 3.5 tonnes of commercial goods after farmers and food sector workers expressed outrage.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said it had been put off to hear the opposition’s side.

Some unions and businesses say the tax should be permanently scrapped.

France is struggling to meet demands from the European Union to settle its state deficit, and newly announced tax increases have been met with widespread opposition.

The government has deployed nearly 600 riot police to quell fears of a repeat of the October 26 protests that resulted in a teargas canister ripping off a man’s hand.

The CGT trade union is organising a second march against unemployment in nearby Carhaix town.

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