Paris ablaze as unrest mounts over Macron’s bid to raise pension age

By Sabrina Miller



dmg media (UK)

Emily Prescott

FRENCH police banned protesters from gathering on main routes through Paris yesterday after demonstrators violently clashed with riot police on Friday. More than 350 activists were arrested throughout France last week – the vast majority in the capital – amid growing unrest over President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms. Protesters burnt effigies of the President in Dijon and in Lyon others ransacked and attempted to set fire to the town hall. On Friday night riot police used water cannons and tear gas on demonstrators who had lit a fire and gathered in Paris’s Place de la Concorde. Crowds chanted ‘Macron resign’ while some were heard shouting ‘revolution’. In response police issued a statement on Saturday banning further protests. They said: ‘Due to serious risks of disturbances… all gatherings on the public thoroughfare in Place de la Concorde and its surroundings, as well as in the area of the Champs-Elysees, are banned.’ Nationwide protests and strikes began after Macron announced plans to increase the pension age from 62 to 64 without a parliamentary vote. He ordered Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne to force the controversial bill through using a special constitutional power known as Article 49.3. Without the reform, Macron warned that the pension system would face bankruptcy. But the plans are being opposed by politicians as well as trade union officials. Two no-confidence motions have been filed against Macron’s government in response to the controversial policy. One by Marine Le Pen’s far-Right National Rally party, and another from the Leftwing NUPES coalition and independents. Both are expected to be debated tomorrow. A broad alliance of France’s main unions have mobilised to try and force a U-turn. Yesterday, 37 per cent of workers at Total Energies – the second largest gas supplier in the country – were on strike. Thousands of tons of uncollected rubbish has also piled up on the streets of Paris due to striking waste workers – further exacerbating tensions in the capital. Unions are planning a mass crosssector strike on Thursday, including rail and aviation workers. Laurent Berger, head of the moderate union CFDT, said that the retirement reform ‘must be withdrawn’. But he added that: ‘changing the government or Prime Minister will not put out this fire.’ Analysts are comparing the protests to the ‘Gilets Jaunes’ (Yellow Vests) movement which took place in late 2018. The protests forced Macron to make a number of concessions. Telecommunications Minister Jean-Noel Barrot told Sud Radio: ‘There is no place for violence. One must respect parliamentary democracy.’