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French President Emmanuel Macron has warned Yellow Vest protesters who take part in violent demonstrations are by default "complicit" in fuelling the unrest that has shaken France for more than three months.

The grassroots movement started online as a peaceful protest against rising fuel costs, but has tapped into broader frustration at the sense of a squeeze on household purchasing power. He said during a debate with senior officials from eastern France: "Now it has to be said that those who join violent protests are complicit in the worst [acts]! We cannot, in a reasonable way, ban the protest but there needs to be a clear message from everyone against violence.

"I believe in a democracy that fosters debate but I do not believe in a democracy that fosters disorder."

He said it was a "miracle" no police officers had been killed.

Ten people have died in connection with the protests, most in road accidents related to Yellow Vest blockades.

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Now in their 15 week, the protests have already forced Mr Macron into concessions
Authorities have blamed the worst of the violence on anarchists, anti-capitalists and extreme groups on the fringes of the yellow vest movement, which began in mid-November over rising fuel costs but quickly morphed into an anti-Macron revolt.

Driving the unrest is anger, particularly among the working class, over a squeeze on household incomes, and a belief that Mr Macron is deaf to citizens' needs as he enacts economic reforms seen as favouring the wealthy.

Now in their 15 week, the protests have already forced him into concessions.

At the height of the unrest in December, Mr Macron promised tax cuts for pensioners, wage rises for the poorest workers and the scrapping of planned fuel tax increases, at a cost to the Treasury of some 10 billion euros (£8.5 billion).

But Mr Macron's comments prompted a flurry of outrage, with the opposition jumping at the opportunity to excoriate the young leader.

"This is a Macron we know well: he is contemptuous. The president isn't concerned about the causes of the crisis and is not looking for solutions... He is pitting the French against one another," sovereignist Nicolas Dupont-Aignan told the TV channel Public Sénat.
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The new bill would give riot police greater powers to search demonstrators for weapons
Far-left lawmaker Eric Coquerel, of the opposition La France Insoumise party, questioned on Twitter whether France is "still a democracy" as he recalled the "fundamental right to protest".

Fabien Roussel, the national secretary of the French Communist Party, for his part, said that "a normal democracy is a democracy that listens to its people."
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The new law would also condemn protesters covering or masking their faces
But the most scathing response came from Jacline Mouraud, the 51-year-old hypnotherapist credited with sparking the anti-government rebellion.

In a statement to AFP, Mrs Mouraud said that Mr Macron's comments amounted to a "call to violence," and accused him of "criminalising genuine protesters".

"While I have always condemned the acts of violence on the sidelines of the protests, today it is Mr Macron who is complicit in the worst, by refusing to listen to the suffering and despair of the French people."

Earlier this month, lawmakers approved an anti-rioting bill giving police the power to ban suspected thugs from demonstrating without seeking oversight from a judge, in a controversial bid to end the violence that has marred the movement.

Violators face a six-month prison sentence and a €7,500 (£6,400) fine. The new law would also allow fines of €15,000 (£12,800) and a one-year prison sentence for protesters covering or masking their faces in an effort to escape identification. It would also give riot police greater powers to search demonstrators for weapons.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner dismissed claims that the bill was "freedom killing," and said it was needed in response to a "handful of hooligans who threaten our right to demonstrate".

The draft legislation is expected to return to the upper house of parliament on March 12.