Violence erupts at French pension protests for 3rd night – DW – 03/18/2023

Violence broke out between protesters and security forces for a third night in central Paris on Saturday over the government’s decision to abandon a parliamentary vote on unpopular pension reforms.

President Emmanuel Macron‘s overhaul will raise the standard retirement age by two years to 64, which he says is essential to ensure the system does not go bust.

After ministers approved the plan by decree on Thursday, bypassing the lower house of parliament, rival opposition parties filed two separate no-confidence motions, which are due to be debated on Monday afternoon. They are expected to fail.

What happened on Saturday?

Police said around 4,000 people gathered in Place d’Italie after being banned from demonstrating close to the National Assembly building due to angry clashes on previous nights.

The ban was ordered because of “serious risks of disturbances to public order.”

Le Monde newspaper said a group of protesters started trash fires, broke class on billboards and bus shelters and thew barriers, used to block streets, at police. 

The paper said 73 people were arrested and just as on previous nights, riot police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowd.

Earlier Saturday, dozens of students and activists marched through Paris’ Forum des Halles shopping mall, chanting loudly and letting off red smoke.

Violence was also reported in the southeastern city of Lyon for a second night when small groups confronted police several times, prompting a response that included tear gas.

On Friday, more than 30 people were detained after a group of demonstrators tried to break into a town hall and set fire to the building.

French protest against Macron’s pension reforms

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Mostly peaceful marches took place in several other French cities, including Marseille, Montpellier and Nantes — where one placard read “Death to the king,” seemingly in reference to Macron.

Workers continued protests in several cities over the government’s handling of pension reformsImage: STEPHANE MAHE/REUTERS

What next for the protest movement?

A broad alliance of France’s main unions has said it would continue to mobilize members to try to force a U-turn on the pension changes.

Some unions ordered workers to continue their rolling strikes, severely affecting high-speed and regional rail services this weekend, among other services.

Paris’ municipal rubbish collectors have kept up their action, and by Friday an estimated 10,000 tons of trash were left festering in the streets.

Some French airports will see almost a third of flights canceled on Monday as a result of walkouts, union leaders predicted.

The CGT union said its members had shut down the TotalEnergies oil refinery in Normandy on Friday evening. A similar blockade of a refinery in southern France began earlier in the day.

A day of nationwide industrial action is also scheduled for Thursday — the ninth since mid-January.

Public hostility not enough to quash plans

Opposition to the pension reform was already high, with two-thirds of the French population against the plan, according to polls.

But the sudden move to avoid a parliamentary…

Read More: Violence erupts at French pension protests for 3rd night – DW – 03/18/2023

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