PARIS, March 18 (Reuters) – Paris police clashed with protesters for a third night on Saturday as thousands marched across the country amid anger at the government pushing for an increase in the retirement age without a parliamentary vote.
The growing unrest and strikes have left President Emmanuel Macron facing the most serious challenge to his authority since the so-called “Yellow Vests” protests four years ago.
“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 previous two nights.
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, up”, videos on social networks shown.
BFM television also broadcast images of ongoing protests 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.
“There is no place for violence. Parliamentary democracy must be respected,” Minister of Digital Transition and Telecommunications Jean-Noël Barrot told radio Sud.
A broad alliance of France’s main unions said it would continue to mobilize in an attempt to force a U-turn on the changes. A nationwide day of labor action is scheduled for Thursday.
Rubbish has piled up on the streets of Paris after garbage collectors joined in on the action.
Some 37% of operational staff at TotalEnergies refineries and depots (TTEF.PA) – at sites such as Feyzin in southeastern France and Normandy in the north – were on strike on Saturday, a spokesman said. of the company. Rolling strikes continue on the railways.
While eight days of national protests since mid-January and many local industrial actions have so far been largely peaceful, the unrest of the past three days is reminiscent of the Yellow Vest protests that erupted in late 2018 over high oil prices. fuel. These protests forced Macron to backtrack on 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.
Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, Gilles Guillaume and Forrest Crellin; Editing by David Holmes and Peter Graff
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