PARIS, March 18 — Police in Paris clashed with protesters for a third night on Saturday as thousands of people marched across the country amid anger over the government pushing through an increase in the state retirement age without a parliamentary vote.
Growing unrest and strikes have left President Emmanuel Macron facing the biggest challenge to his authority since the so-called “Chalecos Jaunes” (Yellow Vests) protests four years ago.
«Macron, resign!» and “Macron is going to collapse, we are going to win,” protesters chanted at the Place d’Italie in southern Paris. Riot police used tear gas and confronted some in the crowd as rubbish bins were set on fire.
City authorities banned demonstrations at central Paris’ Place de la Concorde and nearby Champ-Elysees on Saturday night after demonstrations that resulted in 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 mall, waving banners calling for a general strike and chanting «Paris, stand up, stand up,» videos posted on social media. . presented.
BFM television also showed images of ongoing demonstrations in cities such as Compiegne in the north, Nantes in the west and Marseille in the south. In Bordeaux, in the southwest, police also used tear gas against protesters who had started a fire.
“There is no place for violence. Parliamentary democracy must be respected,” the Minister of Digital Transition and Telecommunications, Jean-Noel Barrot, told Sud radio.
A broad alliance of France’s main unions has said it will continue to mobilize to try to force a radical change in the changes. A nationwide industrial day of action is scheduled for Thursday.
Rubbish has been piling up on the streets of Paris after garbage workers joined the action.
About 37% of operational staff in Total Energies‘ (TTEF.PA) Refineries and depots, in places like Feyzin in southeastern France and Normandy in the north, were on strike on Saturday, a company spokesman said. Continuous strikes continued on the railways.
While the eight days of protests across the country since mid-January and many local industrial actions have so far been mostly peaceful, the unrest of the past three days is reminiscent of the yellow vest protests that broke out in late 2018 over high fuel prices. Those demonstrations forced Macron to do a partial U-turn on a carbon tax.
Macron’s reform raises the retirement age by two years to 64, which the government says is essential to ensure the system does not go bankrupt.