Opponents of pension reform in France continued to express their anger on Saturday with new rallies and growing blockades in refineries, two days after the executive’s decision to force a vote through Parliament.
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The fear of a radicalization of the protest had led the authorities to ban any gathering on the Parisian place of Concorde, close to the National Assembly and the presidential palace of the Élysée, where clashes broke out Thursday and Friday evening .
The Parisian demonstrators, around 4,000 according to a police source, retreated to Place d’Italie, in the south-east of the capital, where they again proclaimed their refusal to raise the age from 62 to 64. retirement, cornerstone of the reform wanted by Emmanuel Macron and very unpopular.
“I sit in front of the computer all day, my eyes hurt, my head hurts, I’ve already had two phlebitis,” said a 55-year-old protester. Incidents began to occur in the early evening: trash fires, ransacked bus shelters, etc. Faced with the thugs, the organizers decided to dissolve the demonstration.
Since the government’s decision on Thursday to have the reform adopted without a vote in the National Assembly, the mobilization has hardened, carried by few young activists, but tired of the massive demonstrations which have followed one another since mid-January.
“What do we have left except to continue to demonstrate? We only have mobilization, which was peaceful until 49.3. But now, it will potentially put social tension everywhere, ”said Romain Morizot, 33, telecom engineer in aviation, crossed in the procession in Marseille, second French city.
Rallies were held all over the country, in Brest (west), Toulon or Montpellier (south-east), before a new day of national action scheduled for Thursday.
“The President of the Republic is obviously following the evolution of the situation” on the ground, Emmanuel Macron’s entourage told AFP.
To justify the ban on gatherings on Saturday on the Place de la Concorde, the prefecture had reported “serious risks of disturbing public order and safety”. Friday evening, like the day before, thousands of people had gathered in this very large square which opens in particular on the avenue des Champs-Élysées and where clashes had broken out at nightfall.
The day before, 10,000 demonstrators had gathered there, ulcerated by Emmanuel Macron’s decision to activate article 49.3 of the Constitution allowing the adoption of a text without a vote.
Setback for Macron
Denouncing “a denial of democracy”, the inter-union called for intensifying the mobilization during the weekend while the government will face two motions of censure on Monday which, if adopted, would lead to its overthrow and abandonment of this project on which Emmanuel Macron plays a lot of his credit.
A union classified on the left, the CGT made an impression by announcing on Saturday that the largest refinery in the country, located in Normandy (north-west) and operated by TotalEnergies, had begun to be shut down.
A milestone has thus been crossed. Since the beginning of the movement, fuel shipments have been blocked, but none of the seven French refineries had been completely shut down.
Very heavy technically, the operation will take several days and should not cause immediate fuel shortages in the country’s service stations, but it could spread. At least two other refineries could be shut down no later than Monday, the CGT union warned.
French Industry Minister Roland Lescure hinted on Saturday that the government could respond by requisitioning agents.
Other key sectors of the economy also remain disrupted by the mobilization, particularly in transport and the collection of household waste.
In Paris, approximately 10,000 tons of waste are still waiting to be collected on the sidewalks of the capital and staff will be requisitioned by the government to start collecting waste, which is overflowing in several districts.
The government has chosen to raise the retirement age in response to the financial deterioration of pension funds and the aging of the population.
France is one of the European countries where the legal age of departure is the lowest, even if the systems are not completely comparable.
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