Protesters and police clashed in Paris for a third night amid widespread anger over Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms.
Protesters and police have clashed in the French capital Paris for a third night as thousands of people took to the streets across the country and refinery workers went on strike to protest the government’s decision to raise the state pension age without a parliamentary vote.
The growing unrest, combined with garbage piling up on the streets of Paris after waste workers joined the action, has left President Emmanuel Macron’s authority with the most serious challenge since the so-called “Gilets Jaunes” or yellow vest protesters. started at the end of 2018.
“Macron, resign!” and “Macron collapses, we win,” chanted protesters in Place d’Italie in southern Paris.
Riot police used tear gas and clashed with some of the crowd after trash cans were set on fire.
Municipal authorities had banned demonstrations in central Paris on the Place de la Concorde and the nearby Champ-Elysees on Saturday night after demonstrations that led to 61 arrests the previous night. On Saturday evening, 81 people were arrested.
Earlier in the French capital, a group of students and activists from the Permanent Revolution Collective briefly stormed the Forum des Halles shopping mall, waving banners calling for a general strike and shouting: “Paris, get up! Get up,” social media videos showed.
People marched in cities across the country after regional unions called for a weekend of protests.
BFM television also showed images of ongoing protests in cities such as Compiegne in the north, Nantes in the west and Marseille in the south. In southwestern Bordeaux, police also used tear gas against protesters who set fires.
“Reform must be implemented… Violence cannot be tolerated,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told Le Parisien newspaper.
Ariane Laget, 36, was among about 200 protesters in the small southern town of Lodeve.
“We are fed up. We feel like we are being trampled on and nobody is listening,” he told the AFP news agency.
A broad confederation of France’s main unions has said it will continue mobilizing to try to force a reversal of the pension changes. A national labor strike day is planned for Thursday.
Thirty-seven percent of operational staff at TotalEnergies’ refineries and warehouses – including Feyzin in southeastern France and Normandy in the north – were on strike Saturday, a company spokesman said.
Rolling strikes also continued on the railways.
Eight days of nationwide protests since mid-January and many local labor struggles have so far been largely peaceful, but the last three days of unrest are reminiscent of the Yellow Vest protests that erupted over high fuel prices and forced Macron to implement a partial U.S. carbon tax.
Macron’s reform raises the retirement age by two years to 64, which the government says is necessary to prevent the system from collapsing.
The government has said the change is necessary to avoid the system slipping into deficit and brings France in line with its European neighbors, where the statutory retirement age is typically higher.
But critics say the changes are unfair to people who start working young in physically demanding jobs and to women who pause their careers to raise children.
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.