Many protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s planfrom 62 to 64 took place on Saturday in Paris and beyond, as uncollected trash continued to stink the streets of the French capital amid a strike by sanitation workers.
Mostly non-violent protests were held in various cities, including Nantes and Marseille, where protesters pushed past police to occupy the main train station for about 15 minutes. In the eastern city of Besançon, hundreds of protesters lit braziers and burned voter cards.
In Paris, an eerie calm has returned to much of the French capital after two consecutive nights of unrest. Police banned gatherings on the Champs-Elysées and the elegant Place de la Concorde, where protesters threw Macron’s effigy into a bonfire as crowds cheered on Friday night.
Several thousand protesters gathered on Saturday night in a public square in southern Paris, Place d’Italie, where some people set trash cans on fire.
Protesters are trying to pressure lawmakers to topple Macron’s government and scuttle an 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 right to bypass a vote in the chaotic lower house, lawmakers from the right and the left filed motions of no confidence in her cabinet on Friday. The proposals are expected to be voted on on Monday.
Some Parisians buying their weekend cottages blamed the Macron administration for the fumes wafting from garbage piled up near a bakery in the city’s 12th arrondissement.
“The government should change its attitude and listen to the people because what is happening is extremely serious. And we are seeing radicalization,” said Isabelle Vergriette, 64, a psychologist. “The government is largely responsible for this.”
The borough’s mayor, Emmanuelle Pierre-Marie, was out at the crack of dawn expressing concern in her neighborhood about the consequences of uncollected trash, which has become a visual and olfactory symbol of actions to defeat the president’s pension reform plan.
“Food waste is our priority because it’s what brings pests to the surface,” said Pierre-Marie. “We are extremely sensitive to the situation. As soon as we have a container truck available, we prioritize the places of greatest concern, such as food markets.”
More workers’ strikes are planned for Monday in numerous sectors, from transport to energy. The Civil Aviation Authority requested the cancellation of 30% of flights at Orly, another airport in Paris, and 20% at Marseille.
The CGT trade union confederation warned that at least two oil refineries could be closed from Monday. Industry Minister Roland Lescure said the government could requisition staff – order workers back to their jobs – to avoid fuel shortages.
Macron has argued that people in France need to work for two more years to strengthen the country’s economy and prevent its pension system from falling into deficit as the population ages.
Laurent Berger, head of the moderate CFDT union, said the pension reform “must be withdrawn”.
“We condemn the violence… But look at the anger. It is very strong, even among our ranks,” he said on RMC radio.