PARIS (AP) — Activists from a French protest movement encouraged supporters Wednesday to set off a bank run by emptying their accounts, while the government urged citizens to express their discontent in a national debate instead of weekly demonstrations disrupting the streets of Paris.
Activists from the yellow vest movement, which started with protests over fuel tax increases, recommended the massive cash withdrawals on social media. One protester, Maxime Nicolle called it the "tax collector's referendum."
"We are going to get our bread back ... You're making money with our dough, and we're fed up," Nicolle said in a video message.
The movement's adherents said they hoped the banking action will force the French government to heed their demands, especially giving citizens the right to propose and vote on new laws.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe gave details Wednesday of a "big debate" the government plans to start next week in all the regions of France.
"We want it to be rich, impartial and fruitful," Philippe said.
The debates will focus on four main topics: climate change, democratic issues, taxes and public services, the prime minister said. Anyone can propose a local event and an internet platform will provide another venue for discussion, he said.
President Emmanuel Macron proposed the debate as a way for the government to hear and to respond to the movement's central complaints.
Macron also announced 10 billion euros ($11.5 billion) worth of measures to boost the purchasing power of French households.
About 200 protesters, including trade union members and participants in the yellow vest movement, gathered Wednesday in Creteil, a Paris suburb as Macron visited a handball facility dedicated to handball gymnasium.
Police officers used tear gas to keep the crowd at a distance from the French leader.
The yellow vest movement was named after the fluorescent garments French motorists must carry so they are visible if they need to get out of their vehicles in a place that could be unsafe.
The protests started in November to oppose fuel tax hikes and have expanded into broader public rejections of Macron's economic policies, deemed to favor the rich.