The Latest: France's Macron scraps fuel tax after protests

A demonstrator stands in front of a makeshift barricade set up by the so-called yellow jackets to block the entrance of a fuel depot in Le Mans, western France, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2018, with banner reading "Stop the Government racket". French governmenThe Associated Press
A demonstrator stands in front of a makeshift barricade set up by the so-called yellow jackets to block the entrance of a fuel depot in Le Mans, western France, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2018, with banner reading "Stop the Government racket". French government's decision to suspend fuel tax and utility hikes Tuesday did little to appease protesters, who called the move a "first step" and vowed to fight on after large-scale rioting in Paris last weekend. (AP Photo/David Vincent)

The Latest on mass protests in France (all times local):

8:55 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron has scrapped a fuel tax rise amid fears of new violence, after weeks of nationwide protests and the worst rioting in Paris in decades.

An official with the Elysee palace told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the president decided to get rid of the tax.

Philippe told lawmakers that "the tax is now abandoned" in the 2019 budget, and the government is "ready for dialogue." The budget can be adjusted or renegotiated through the course of the year.

Three weeks of protests have left four people dead and were a massive challenge to Macron.

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4:10 p.m.

One of the activists leading France's protest movement says that he fears more deaths if Saturday's demonstration goes ahead, and called for President Emmanuel Macron to speak out and bring calm.

Christophe Chalencon said that "if not there will be chaos," with risks of more deaths.

Chalencon said in an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press that the grassroots movement, triggered by fuel tax hikes, has grown amid Macron's silence.

Four people have died since protests began in November. Violent rampaging last Saturday devastated the French capital.

Chalencon, a 52-year-old blacksmith, said the public needed Macron to "admit he made a mistake, with simple words ... that touch the guts and heart of the French."

He said the prime minister's announcement Tuesday of a freeze on tax hikes "had no resonance."

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11 a.m.

The concessions made by France's prime minister in a bid to stop the huge and violent anti-government demonstrations that have been rocking France over the past three weeks, seem to have so far failed to convince protesters, with trade unions and farmers now threatening to join the fray.

A day after Edouard Philippe announced a suspension of planned fuel tax hikes that kicked off protests, the "yellow vest" protest movement showed no sign of slowing down on Wednesday. Students opposed to a university application system remained mobilized, trucking unions called for a rolling strike and France's largest farm union threatened to launch protests next week.

A joint statement from the CGT and FO trucking unions protesting a cut to overtime rates called for action from Sunday night.

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