French pension protests mostly quiet, uncollected rubbish grows

PARIS — A pair of protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise France’s retirement age from 62 to 64 took place in Paris and beyond on Saturday, as uncollected rubbish left to stink in the streets of the French capital amid a strike by protesters. sanitation workers.

Largely non-violent protests were held in several cities, including Nantes and Marseille, where protesters passed police to occupy the main train station for about 15 minutes. In the eastern city of Besançon, hundreds of protesters lit a brazier and burned voter cards.

In Paris, after two consecutive nights of unrest, an eerie calm returned to most of the French capital. Police banned gatherings on Champs-Elysées Avenue and the elegant Place de la Concorde, where protesters threw an effigy of Macron into a bonfire as a crowd cheered Friday night.

Several thousand protesters gathered in a public square in the south of Paris, the Place d’Italie, on Saturday night, where some people set fire to rubbish bins.

Protesters are trying to pressure lawmakers to overthrow Macron’s government and doom the unpopular increase in the retirement age he is trying to impose without a vote in the National Assembly.

After Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne invoked a special constitutional power to bypass a vote in the chaotic lower chamber, lawmakers on the right and left filed no-confidence motions against her cabinet on Friday. The motions are expected to be voted on Monday.

Some Paris residents who bought their weekend baguettes blamed Macron’s administration for fumes emanating from garbage piled near a bakery in the city’s 12th arrondissement.

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“The government must change its position and listen to the people, because what is happening is extremely serious. And we see a radicalization’, says Isabelle Vergriette, 64, psychologist. “The government is largely responsible for this.”

The mayor of the district, Emmanuelle Pierre-Marie, was out at dawn and expressed concern in her neighborhood about the consequences of the uncollected waste, which has become a visual and olfactory symbol of the actions to defeat the president’s pension reform plan.

“Food waste is our priority because it brings pests to the surface,” said Pierre-Marie. “We are extremely sensitive to the situation. As soon as we have a dump truck available, we give priority to the most affected places, such as food markets.”

More labor strikes were planned for Monday in numerous sectors, from transport to energy. The civil aviation authority asked to cancel 30% of flights at Orly, Paris’ second airport, and 20% at Marseille.

The trade union federation CGT warned that at least two oil refineries may be closed from Monday. Industry Minister Roland Lescure said the government could requisition personnel – send workers back to their posts – to avoid fuel shortages.

Macron has argued that it is necessary for people in France to work two years longer to boost the country’s economy and prevent the pension system from falling into deficit due to aging populations.

Laurent Berger, head of the moderate trade union CFDT, said the pension reform “should be withdrawn”.

“We condemn violence. … But look at the anger. It is very strong, even in our ranks,” he said on RMC radio.


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