French protesters pass by garbage heaps resisting Macron
PARIS — In Paris and beyond on Saturday against President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise France’s retirement age from 62 to 64, garbage that wasn’t collected during the sanitation workers’ strike stinks on the streets of the French capital.
Largely nonviolent protests were held in several cities, including Nantes and Marseille, where protesters bypassed the police and occupied the main train station for about 15 minutes. In the eastern city of Besancon, hundreds of demonstrators lit barbecues and burned their voting cards.
In Paris, police tried to restore calm after two consecutive nights of unrest. Police banned gatherings on the Champs-Elysées and on the elegant Place de la Concorde, where protesters threw a bust of Macron into a bonfire as the crowd cheered on Friday night.
Several thousand protesters gathered in Place d’Italie, a public square in southern Paris on Saturday evening, then marched to Europe’s largest incinerator, where tensions flared. Some set trash cans on fire and protesters chanted “the streets are ours” as firefighter sirens sounded.
Protesters are trying to pressure lawmakers to overthrow Macron’s government and screw up the not-so-popular retirement age increase he’s trying to impose without a vote in the National Assembly.
Lawmakers from the right and left filed a no-confidence motion against her cabinet on Friday, after Macron ordered Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne to apply special constitutional mandate to circumvent the chaotic lower house vote. The proposals are expected to be voted on Monday.
Some Parisians, who went out to buy their baguettes at the weekend, blamed the Macron administration for the smoke from the garbage piled up next to a bakery in the city’s 12th district.
“The government should change its position and listen to the people because what happened is extremely serious. “And we’re seeing a radicalization,” said psychologist Isabelle Vergriette, 64. The government is largely responsible for this,” she said.
The district’s mayor, Emmanuelle Pierre-Marie, stepped out at dawn to voice her concerns in her neighborhood about the consequences of uncollected garbage, which has become a visual and olfactory symbol of the actions taken to disrupt the president’s pension reform plan.
“Food waste is our priority because that’s what brings the pests to the surface,” said Pierre-Marie. “We are extremely sensitive to the situation. As soon as we have a garbage truck, we prioritize the most relevant places like food markets.”
Police seized garbage workers to clean up some neighborhoods, but piles of garbage remained.
More workers’ strikes are planned in many sectors, from transport to energy, on Monday. The Civil Aviation authority requested the cancellation of 30% of flights at Orly, the second airport in Paris, and 20% at Marseille.
Trade union confederation CGT warned that at least two oil refineries could be shut down from Monday. Industry Minister Roland Lescure said the government could request staff – order workers to return to their posts – to avoid fuel shortages.
At Saturday’s protest, 22-year-old Melodie Tunç said Macron’s passing of the bill was the last straw. “It’s a good thing that the garbage on the streets is so visible,” he said, as he carefully walked the streets of Paris to avoid garbage. It tells people how useful garbage collectors are.”
“The government used force to pass the bill. But we must fight for our social achievements, and the only way to do that is to take to the streets,” he said.
Macron argued that it is necessary for people in France to work for two more years to revive the country’s economy and prevent the pension system from running short as the population ages.
Laurent Berger, chairman of the moderate CFDT union, said pension reform “must be withdrawn”.
“We condemn the violence. … But look at the anger. He’s too strong even in our ranks,” he said on RMC radio.
Jade le Deley in Paris contributed.
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