A bin burns during a protest in Paris. France was bracing for fresh violence, following chaos in Paris last weekend, with thousands of protesters railing against rising prices. Image Credit: AP

PARIS: The French government has pledged a range of measures to end weeks of demonstrations over taxes and declining standards of living. But who exactly makes up the "yellow vest" movement, and will the government be able to quell their anger after a month of increasingly fiery protests?

Who are the protesters?

The "gilets jaunes" (yellow vest) movement sprang up in late October against increases in fuel taxes announced as part of President Emmanuel Macron's efforts to pay for clean energy initiatives.

While the protests began over fuel taxes, they have snowballed into a wider movement against Macron, largely among people in small-town and rural France.

Many accuse the former investment banker of being an arrogant "president of the rich" who is out of touch with the struggles of ordinary people in the provinces.

Donning the luminous safety vests French drivers are required to carry in their cars, the protesters have blocked motorways and petrol depots since their first Saturday of demonstrations on November 17.

Many have continued to man blockades since then, playing havoc with traffic and causing fuel shortages ahead of the busy holiday season.

Organisers have called protests every Saturday since, which degenerated last weekend into running battles with police in Paris, where more than 200 vehicles were burned and 412 people arrested.

What do they want?

Different protesters have different aims, and there is no widely recognised group of leaders for the grassroots movement which took root on social media.

Some remain focused on lowering fuel taxes and other financial burdens, saying low-income families in particular are paying the price for Macron's push to reform and revive the French economy.

Others have made it personal and say Macron must resign, still fuming over his decision to cut taxes for the highest earners shortly after sweeping to the presidency last year.

An immediate increase in the minimum wage and pension benefits has also been a rallying cry.

Underpinning the movement is a widespread complaint that overlooked provincial workers on modest incomes barely scrape by after paying some of the highest tax bills in Europe.

An apolitical movement with members who vote for parties of various stripes, the "yellow vests" have won support from everyone from far-right leader Marine Le Pen to far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon.

Why do they pose a challenge?

The government has admitted it failed to appreciate the depth of the anger, and has announced it will cancel a fuel tax hike set for January, of seven euro cents for diesel and three cents for unleaded.

Coming increases for electricity and gas prices were also frozen, as were new vehicle inspection norms which would have hit users of older diesel cars.

The moves were dismissed by protesters - and Macron's political opponents - as too little, too late.

Since then Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has floated the idea of a bonus payment for low-paid workers.

But efforts to negotiate have gone nowhere, not least because the movement's purported leaders have largely declined invitations to talks - some because they were threatened by other "yellow vests."

Adding to the government's headache, the movement has retained solid public support despite scenes of chaos in the capital last weekend.

Opinion polls show 70 to 80 percent of respondents backing the protesters, even as Macron's approval ratings plunged to record low of 23 percent in an Ifop-Fiducial survey this past week.

And protesters have remained adamant they won't back down now.

"This movement has revealed how millions of French people live," said Jacline Mouraud, whose YouTube tirade in October over rising fuel prices propelled her to the fore of the revolt.

"It's no longer a source of shame to admit that you can't make ends meet at the end of every month," she said in interview with French daily Le Figaro on Friday.

France 'yellow vest' protests: timeline of unrest

Here is a timeline of the "yellow vest" movement in France, from the first online rumblings against a fuel tax hike to nationwide protests that led to the worst Paris riots in decades.

A new day of high-risk demonstrations is planned on Saturday. So far four people have died and hundreds have been injured during the protests.

Viral video

A video posted on Facebook on October 18 quickly goes viral. It shows a woman, Jacline Mouraud, addressing French President Emmanuel Macron - "Monsieur Macron", she says - from her living room.

In it she lists the grievances of drivers in the face of the fuel price hike.

A petition to bring down the price of fuel is posted online.

Mass protests

Saturday, November 17 is the first day of road blockades across France with nearly 290,000 demonstrators wearing the fluorescent yellow vests motorists are required to carry in their cars.

The protests are spontaneous, and not organised by political parties or unions.

The next day Prime Minister Edouard Philippe says the government will not back down.

Violence breaks out in the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, led mainly by armed youths.

Second Saturday

The next protests take place the following Saturday, November 24. Thousands of demonstrators clash with police on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.

More than 106,000 demonstrators are recorded across France, including 8,000 in Paris. Revised official numbers count 166,000.

Aborted meeting

On November 27 Macron offers minor concessions, saying he would propose a mechanism to adjust the tax increases and calls for a three-month national consultation.

Unimpressed, the "yellow vests" call for a new protest on December 1 on the Champs-Elysees.

On November 29 Philippe meets a "yellow vest" protester. A day later two accept his invitation, but one walks out.

Chaos in Paris

The third day of protests takes place on Saturday, December 1 with widespread violence erupting particularly in Paris around the Arc de Triomphe and several upscale neighbourhoods.

The government says some 136,000 people protested across the country.

Crisis meetings

On his return from the G20 summit in Argentina, Macron immediately calls a crisis meeting at the Elysee Palace on December 2.

Philippe meets with political party leaders on December 3. "Yellow vests" representatives announce they will not go to a meeting with Philippe planned the following day - later cancelled - as some say they have received death threats.

Blockages of roads, shopping centres and fuel depots continue.

Seizing on the momentum from the protests, students start demonstrating over education reforms, disrupting dozens of high schools every day from December 3.

Six-month suspension

On December 4 the government retreats.

The prime minister says planned tax increases on petrol and diesel on January 1 will be suspended for six months and hikes in regulated electricity and gas prices will be frozen during the winter.

The "yellow vests" reject the moves as insufficient and press ahead with plans for a fourth day of protests on Saturday, December 8.

The government fears the new protests could lead to a new explosion of violence, anticipating participation by the far left and far right.

2019 tax hikes scrapped

On December 5 Macron announces that all planned fuel tax hikes for 2019 will be scrapped.

However he rules out re-imposing a "fortune tax" on high-earners.

Farmers say they are planning to hold demonstrations next week, to support their own demands.

High risk demonstration

For the fourth day of protests on Saturday, 89,000 security force members will be deployed, including 8,000 in Paris. Armoured vehicles will also be mobilised in the capital.

The government, as well as most opposition parties and unions have called for calm.

On the eve of a demonstration, "yellow vest" representatives advise against demonstrating in Paris where museums, monuments, big shops and many metro stations will be closed.