Police clash with pension protesters for second night in Paris | European Union News

Protests over pension reform are the most serious challenge to President Macron’s authority since the 2018 “yellow vest” protests.

Riot police clashed with protesters for a second night in Paris as protests continued against government plans to raise the retirement age in France.

Growing unrest since the start of the year, which has led to a wave of strikes and littering the streets of the French capital, has left President Emmanuel Macron with the gravest challenge to his authority since the so-called “Yellow Vests”. or “yellow vests” of December 2018.

Police fired tear gas on Friday night to deal with the crowd disorder as protesters gathered in Place de la Concorde, near the National Assembly parliament building.

“Macron, resign!” chanted some protesters, as they closed in on a line of riot police.

The protest on Paris’s elegant Place de la Concorde got off to a festive start as several thousand demonstrators chanted, danced and lit a huge bonfire. But it quickly escalated into an echoing scene on Thursday night as riot police charged in and used tear gas to clear the square while some protesters threw fireworks and threw cobblestones at police.

On Thursday evening, police also charged into the crowd with batons and used water cannons in small groups, then set street fires in nearby uptown areas.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin told RTL radio that 310 people had been arrested overnight, most of them in Paris.

Scattered demonstrations also took place in cities across France – from a march in Bordeaux to a rally in Toulouse.

Calais port officers have temporarily blocked ferries from crossing the English Channel to Dover. Some Paris university campuses were blocked and protesters occupied a busy ring road around the French capital.

Garbage collectors in Paris have extended their strike for a 12th day, with piles of smelly rubbish sprouting up the streets. Striking sanitation workers also continued to block Europe’s largest incineration site and two other sites that process the capital’s rubbish.

Some Yellow Vest activists, who staged formidable protests against Macron’s economic policies during his first term, were among those who relayed Friday’s Paris protest on social media. Police say “radicalized yellow vests” are among the troublemakers during protest marches.

The French are deeply attached to maintaining the legal retirement age at 62, one of the lowest in OECD countries.

The Macron administration has used a special constitutional power to push through pension reforms which, among other things, will gradually raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.

CGT union leader Philippe Martinez and Laurent Berger, general secretary of the French Democratic Confederation of Labor (CFDT), hold a banner with other protesters in Paris, France, March 11, 2023 [File: Benoit Tessier/Reuters]

More than eight in 10 French people are unhappy with the government’s decision not to vote in parliament on changing the retirement age and 65% want strikes and protests to continue, according to a Toluna Harris Interactive poll for the RTL radio.

Unions which organize opposition to the reforms have urged protesters to remain peaceful in further strikes and marches in the coming days. They also called on people to leave schools, factories, refineries and other workplaces to force Macron to abandon his plan to make the French work two more years, until they are 64, before receiving a pension at full rate.

Members of the left and the centrist opposition tabled a motion of censure in Parliament on Friday afternoon. But even if Macron lost his absolute majority in France’s lower house in last year’s election, there was little chance of that happening – unless a surprise alliance of lawmakers from all sides came along. formed.

Going forward without a vote “is a denial of democracy…a total denial of what has been happening in the streets for several weeks,” 52-year-old psychologist Nathalie Alquier said in Paris.

“It’s just unbearable.”

Demonstrations are planned for this weekend and another day of national industrial action is scheduled for next Thursday. Teachers’ unions have called for a strike next week, which could disrupt the iconic baccalaureate exams.

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