In Paris, the rallies turned violent Saturday with blazes set on the world-famous Champs-Élysées avenue while masked protesters waved the French flag. Police responded to skirmishes with water cannons and tear gas. More than 100 people were arrested.
The demonstrations started earlier this month and have morphed into a wider rebuke of Macron’s presidency and his attempts at economic reform.
Macron condemned attacks on police officers in a sharply worded tweet, saying there is "no place for this" in France.
The “Yellow Jacket” activists — named after the neon vests French drivers are obliged to carry in their vehicles in the case of roadside emergencies — want Macron to call off the tax increases.
Motorists have blocked highways across the country since Nov. 17, setting up barricades and deploying conveys of slow-moving trucks.
Around 280,000 protested in the streets across the country that day, with 106,000 people attending rallies on Saturday, according to French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner.
On Jan. 1, the tax on gasoline will go up by around 12 cents per gallon and on diesel by approximately 28 cents per gallon, according to Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne.
Gas taxes will go up by another 5 cents per gallon by 2020, with diesel jumping an additional 2 cents.
On Monday, gasoline cost around $6.26 per gallon in Paris, while diesel was around $6.28 a gallon.
Macron has so far refused to reconsider the hikes, which he says will help reduce France’s dependence on fossil fuels. By raising the cost of diesel, the French government hopes to convince more people to buy less-polluting vehicles.
While the protests were sparked by the looming increase in fuel prices, experts say they have become an outlet for people to express their discontent with the high cost of living in France and with Macron’s presidency more generally.
“The white middle class, the forgotten middle class in France,” said Famke Krumbmüller, an expert in French politics at OpenCitiz political consultancy firm in Paris.
Krumbmüller said the people protesting were those who pay the high French taxes and social charges — which cover benefits such as the state pension and unemployment insurance — but feel they get little in return because they are not the poorest in society.
“They’re fed up with the rising prices and the cost of living,” she explained. “They feel like the political elite is forgetting about them.”
In France, an individual earning between $30,675 and $82,237 is taxed at 30 percent. In the U.S., an individual earning $30,675 would pay 12 percent in federal tax while someone earning $82,237 would pay 22 percent.
Joseph Downing, an expert in French politics at the London School of Economics, agreed that the protests were about "much more" than taxes on gas.
“It’s this entire idea of the squeezed middle or the squeezed upper working-class person who feels an entitlement to an ever-increasing standard of living but is something that no politician can deliver,” he said. “This is where we’ve seen disenfranchisement with Sarkozy, with Hollande and now with Macron.”
Castaner, the newly appointed French interior minister, said that far-right protesters joined Saturday's rally in the Champs-Élysées after Marine Le Pen encouraged them to attend.
Le Pen — who is the leader of the far-right National Rally party, which was formerly known as the National Front — has expressed her support for the “Yellow Jacket” protests but condemned any violence.
Authorities have not suggested that the protests are dominated by supporters of the far-right.
An Ifop poll published earlier this month suggested that National Rally had nudged ahead of Macron’s En Marche party when measuring voter intention ahead of the European Parliament elections next May.