PARIS, 18 March — Paris police clashed again with protestors as thousands marched through the country in anger at the government’s push to increase the state pension age without a vote.
President Emmanuel Macron is facing the most serious challenge to his authority since four years ago’s protests by the “Gilets Jaunes” or Yellow Vests.
Demonstrators chanted “Macron, Resign!” at the Place d’Italie, in southern Paris. Riot police used tear gas to clash with others in the crowd, as trash bins were set ablaze.
After demonstrations that had resulted in 61 arrests over the past two nights, Paris municipal authorities have banned rallies at Place de la Concorde and Champ-Elysees.
A group of activists and students from the “Revolution Permanente”, a collective, briefly invaded the Forum des Halles shopping center, waving banners calling to a general strike. They also shouted “Paris stand up! Rise up!” videos posted on social media.
BFM television showed images of protests in cities like Compiegne, Nantes and Marseille in south. Police used tear gas in Bordeaux, southwest France, against protesters who started a fire.
“There is no room for violence. “One must respect parliamentary democracy,” Jean-Noel Barrot, Digital Transition and Telecommunications Minister, told Sud radio.
A large alliance of France’s major unions said that it would continue to mobilize to push for a U-turn. On Thursday, a day of industrial action will be held across France.
After refuse workers joined the action, rubbish began to pile up on Paris’ streets.
A spokesperson for the company said that 37% of operational personnel at TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA ) refineries and depots — located at sites such as Feyzin, southeast France, and Normandy in Normandy in northern France — went on strike Saturday. The railways are still experiencing rolling strikes.
Although there have been eight days of peaceful protests across the country since January, as well as many industrial actions at the local level, the turmoil of the last three days reminds me of the Yellow Vest protests that erupted in late 2018, over high fuel prices. These demonstrations forced Macron to partially reverse his position on the carbon tax.
Macron’s reform raises the retirement age by two years, to 64. This is what the government considers essential in order to keep the system solvent.