Mostly calm on the streets of Paris, trash still piling up

Paris (AP) — Scattered protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial pension reform were planned for the weekend in France, as trash continued to stink on and off the streets of Paris amid a strike by garbage collectors.

An eerie calm returned to Paris on Saturday after two nights of violent protests by thousands in the French capital, with one flashpoint on the elegant Place de la Concorde, where angry protesters threw an effigy of Macron on a bonfire to cheers from the crowd. Police dispersed people with tear gas and water cannons, and hundreds of arrests were made.

Protesters try to pressure lawmakers to topple Macron’s government and condemn unpopular retirement age hike he tries to impose without a vote in the National Assembly.

More protests were planned for Saturday in Paris and the cities of Marseille and Nantes, but were expected to be smaller than in previous days.

In the 12th arrondissement of Paris on Saturday, garbage piled up a meter away from a bakery, encouraged by the mild weather and sunshine. Some Parisians buying a weekend baguette blamed Macron’s administration.

“The government should change its position and listen to the people because what is happening is very serious. And we are seeing radicalization,” said psychologist Isabelle Vergriette, 64. “The government is largely responsible for this.”

The mayor of the area, Emmanuelle Pierre-Marie, was out in the morning and expressed her concern about the consequences of the garbage pile-up in the neighborhood, which has become a visual and olfactory symbol of anti-pension activities.

“Food waste is our priority because it brings pests to the surface,” said Pierre-Marie. “We are very sensitive to the situation. As soon as we have a dump truck available, we will prioritize the places of greatest concern, such as food markets.”

Strikes are planned for Monday in several sectors, from transport to energy. The civil aviation authority asked that 30 percent of flights be canceled at Orly, Paris’ second airport, and 20 percent at Marseille.

Laurent Berger, head of the moderate CFDT trade union, said the pension reform “must be cancelled”.

“We bring violence. … But look at the hatred. It is very strong, even in our ranks,” he said on RMC radio.

On Friday, a day after Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne invoked special constitutional powers to circumvent the vote in the chaotic lower house, lawmakers from the right and left tabled a motion of no confidence, which will be voted on Monday.

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