Protests multiplied in France on Saturday against the pension reform imposed by decree by liberal president Emmanuel Macron, in a climate of growing political and social tensions, with the beginning of refinery blockades.
Authorities banned gatherings at the Place de la Concorde in Paris, in front of the National Assembly (Chamber of Deputies), after two nights of demonstrations that led to incidents involving hundreds of arrests.
In anticipation of another day of protests called for by trade unions this Thursday, sectoral strikes are slowing the activity of the second largest economy in the European Union (EU) and tons of rubbish are piling up in key cities.
The Macron’s decision to approve the reform through a constitutional provision – Article 49.3 – allowing him to skip the legislative vote added new fuel to popular outrage.which was declining, and radicalized groups of young people.
Deputies from opposition forces tabled two motions of censure, which will be discussed from Monday. The basically difficult approval of any of them would nullify the presidential decree and force Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne to resign.
The reform that set the country on fire aims to slow the retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030 and the requirement to contribute 43 years to 2027. (and not 42 like now) to get a full pension.
Authorities banned rallies in the Plaza de la Concordia after two nights of clashes between protesters throwing bottles and flares at security forces, who in turn responded with tear gas and arrested more than 300 people.
Complaints from future retirees
A march on Saturday gathered some 4,000 demonstrators (according to a police source) on the Place d’Italie, in a busy area of Paris.
“I sit at a computer all day, my eyes hurt, I have a headache and I have already had two phlebitis,” says a 55-year-old protester, explaining her rejection of the reform.
The organizers of the rally ordered their dispersal when some groups began burning rubbish bins and vandalizing sheltered bus stops.
Several cities were the theater of other marches, such as Marseille, Brest (west), Toulon or Montpellier.
“What else are we left with but to keep demonstrating? The demonstrations were peaceful until the application of 49.3. Now there is the potential for an increase in social tensions,” thought Romain Morizot, a 33-year-old telecommunications engineer, during the march in Marseille, France’s second city.
France’s largest oil refinery, located in Normandy (northwest), began paralyzing its facilities on Friday night and others could follow suit from Monday, union sources said.
Industry Minister Roland Lescure indicated that the government could order personnel applications to avoid fuel shortages.
Requisitions from Parisian garbage collectors were also ordered to begin clearing some 10,000 tons of rubbish accumulating in the capital’s streets.
“It is clear that the president of the republic is monitoring the situation,” they told AFP close to Macron.
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