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French overseas minister booed by 'Yellow Vest' protesters

media French Overseas Minister Annick Girardin (R) listens to a Yellow Vest (Gilet Jaune) protester gesturing during a meeting at Saint-Paul sous-prefecture, west of the Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, on November 30, 2018. AFP / Richard Bouhet

The French minister of overseas territories, Annick Giradin, had to be escorted by police from a meeting on Friday on the Indian Ocean island of Réunion, after protesters voiced dissatisfaction with measures announced earlier.

It was the first time since the minister's arrival on the island that Giradin met directly with ‘yellow vest’ demonstrators.

The protesters are among those taking part in the 14-day mass mobilization against proposed increases in fuel taxation. They are called the ‘yellow vests’ in reference to the high-visibility safety jackets supposed to be worn during emergencies on French roads.

All across France and the French overseas territories, the widespread protests organized via social media have sprung up, complaining about increased fuel taxes and government incomprehension of the difficulties of ordinary citizens.

The protests are intended to draw attention to the growing division between the rich and the poor and the collapse of the middle class.

In the case of Réunion, the ongoing demonstrations are estimated to have cost the island between 500 to 600 million euros according to the local Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

On Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron proposed certain social measures to eradicate poverty, measures that were not specific to Réunion.

On Thursday, further proposals on employment, housing and the economy were met with disappointment by protesters on the island.

Because the protests are not being organised by one leader or pressure group, the authorities are unable to pinpoint the exact location of demonstrators, who have been blocking highways and major roundabouts to the dismay of local authorities, residents and business interests.

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