PARIS (AP) – Protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s plan France to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 on Saturday in Paris and beyond, as uncollected waste The streets of the French capital stink amid a strike by sanitation workers.
Largely non-violent protests took place in various cities, including Nantes and Marseille, where protesters blocked police at the main train station for about 15 minutes. In the eastern city of Besançon, hundreds of protesters lit bonfires and burned voter cards.
In Paris, police tried to restore calm after two consecutive nights of unrest, Police banned gatherings on the Champs-Élysées avenue and the elegant Place de la Concorde, where protesters threw an effigy of Macron into a bonfire while crowds cheered on Friday night.
Several thousand protesters gathered in the Place d’Italie, a public square in southern Paris, on Saturday evening, then marched towards Europe’s largest waste incinerator plant, which has become a flashpoint of tensions. Some set garbage cans on fire, and protesters chanted slogans such as “Galiyan Hamari Hai” while fire brigade sirens blared.
Protesters are trying to pressure lawmakers to topple Macron’s government and sabotage the unpopular retirement age hike he is trying to impose without a vote in the National Assembly.,
After Macron ordered Prime Minister Elizabeth Borne to invoke a special constitutional power to quell the vote in the chaotic lower chamber, lawmakers on the right and the left filed a motion of no-confidence against his cabinet on Friday. These proposals are expected to be voted on on Monday.
Some Parisians who were buying their weekend baguettes blamed Macron’s administration for fumes billowing from a garbage dump near a bakery in the city’s 12th arrondissement.
“The government should change its position and listen to the people because what is happening is very serious. And we are seeing a radicalization,” said Isabelle Vergriet, 64, a psychologist. “To a large extent the government is to blame.”
The mayor of the district, Emmanuel Pierre-Marie, was out in the morning sounding concerns about the consequences of uncontrolled waste in his neighborhood, which has become a visual and olfactory symbol of actions to thwart the president’s pension reform plan.
“Food waste is our priority because it brings pests to the surface,” Pierre-Marie said. “We are extremely sensitive to the situation. We prioritize the most relevant locations, such as food markets, as soon as we have a dumpster truck available.
The police have called in garbage workers to clean some neighborhoods, but the garbage is piling up.
More labor strikes were planned for Monday in a range of sectors, from transport to energy. The civil aviation authority asked for the cancellation of 30% of flights at Orly, Paris’ second airport, and 20% at Marseille.
Trade union confederation CGT warned that at least two oil refineries could be closed from Monday. Industry Minister Roland Lascure said the government could make personnel requisitions – ordering workers back to their posts – to avoid fuel shortages.
At Saturday’s protest, Melody Tunk, 22, said allowing Macron to pass the bill without a vote was the last straw. Marching carefully to avoid piles of garbage on the streets of Paris, she said, “It’s a good thing that garbage is so visible on the streets. It tells people how useful the rag pickers are.”
“The government used force to get its bill passed. But we have to fight for our social achievements and the only way to do it is by taking to the streets.”
Macron has argued that people in France need to work two more years to shore up the country’s economy and prevent its pension system from falling into deficit as the population ages.
Laurent Berger, head of the liberal CFDT union, said the retirement reform “must be withdrawn.”
“We condemn the violence. … But see the anger. It is also very strong among our ranks,” he said on RMC Radio.
Jade Le Dele contributed in Paris.
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