Protesters and police clash in Paris for a third night amid widespread anger over Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform.
Protesters and police in the French capital, Paris, clashed for a third night as thousands took to the streets across the country and refinery workers went on strike in opposition to the government’s decision to raise the retirement age without a parliamentary vote.
The growing unrest, combined with the rubbish piling up on the streets of Paris after garbage collectors joined the action, has left President Emmanuel Macron with the gravest challenge to his authority since the so-called “Vests Jaunes”, or demonstrations of yellow vests, which began at the end of 2018.
“Macron, resign!” and “Macron will collapse, we will win,” chanted protesters in Place d’Italie in southern Paris.
Riot police used tear gas and clashed with some in the crowd as bins were set alight.
City authorities had banned gatherings in the central Place de la Concorde in Paris and on the nearby Champs-Élysées on Saturday evening after protests that led to 61 arrests the night before. There were 81 arrests Saturday night.
Earlier in the French capital, a group of students and activists from the Permanent Revolution Collective briefly invaded the Forum des Halles shopping center, waving banners calling for a general strike and shouting: “Paris, up! Get up,” videos on social media showed.
People marched in cities and towns across the country after regional unions called for a weekend of protests.
BFM television also broadcast images of ongoing demonstrations in cities such as Compiègne in the north, Nantes in the west and Marseille in the south. In Bordeaux, in the southwest, the police also used tear gas against demonstrators who had started a fire.
“Reform must be implemented… Violence cannot be tolerated,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told Le Parisien newspaper.
Ariane Laget, 36, was among some 200 people demonstrating in the small southern town of Lodève.
“We are fed up. We feel like we are being trampled on and no one is listening to us,” she told AFP news agency.
A broad alliance of France’s main unions said it would continue to mobilize to try to force a U-turn on pension changes. A nationwide day of labor action is scheduled for Thursday.
Thirty-seven percent of operational staff at TotalEnergies refineries and depots – at sites such as Feyzin in southeastern France and Normandy in the north – were on strike on Saturday, a spokesman for the company said. Company.
Rolling strikes also continued in the railways.
Eight days of nationwide protests since mid-January and many local industrial actions have so far been largely peaceful, but the unrest of the past three days is reminiscent of the yellow vest protests, which erupted over prices high on fuel and forced Macron to a partial U. -activate a carbon tax.
Macron’s overhaul raises the retirement age by two years to 64, which the government says is essential to ensure the system does not collapse.
The government said the change was needed to prevent the system from sliding into deficit and bring France into line with its European neighbours, where the statutory retirement age is generally higher.
But critics say the changes are unfair to people who start working at a young age in physically demanding jobs and women who take career breaks to raise children.
Laurent Berger, leader of the moderate CFDT union, said the pension reform “must be withdrawn”.
“We condemn the violence. … But look at the anger. It’s very strong, even in our ranks, ”he said on RMC radio.