France has banned protests outside parliament after a second night of unrest sparked by the government’s decision to introduce an unpopular pension reform without a parliamentary vote.
Paris police banned protests on Saturday in the Place de la Concorde, near the National Assembly of Parliament building, after two evenings of clashes between demonstrators and riot police.
It says that this is being done “due to a serious risk of public order disturbance”.
On Friday evening, a bonfire was lit in the square, groups of people threw bottles and fireworks at the security forces.
Police used tear gas to clear the area. According to the police, 61 people were arrested.
In the southeastern city of Lyon, demonstrators tried to storm the town hall and set fire to the building; 36 people were detained.
However, peaceful marches began in other parts of the country after unions called for a weekend of protests.
About 300 people gathered in the eastern city of Besançon on Saturday morning, AFP reports.
Natalie, a woman in her thirties, threw her voter’s card into the fire.
“I elected my member of parliament, but he was disenfranchised. We are at the center of the rejection of democracy.”
“Rejection of democracy”
Since mid-January, France has seen eight days of national protests and strikes against a pension reform bill that would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 and increase the duration of contributions.
The government says this is essential to ensure the pension system survives.
The unions disagree, and polls show that the vast majority of French people are also against it.
While the protests have so far been largely peaceful, anger flared after the government invoked Article 49.3 of the constitution on Thursday to push the bill through without a parliamentary vote.
More than eight in 10 people are unhappy with the decision, while 65 percent want strikes and protests to continue, according to a poll by Toluna Harris Interactive for RTL radio.
Going forward without a vote “is a denial of democracy … a total denial of what has been happening in the streets for weeks,” said Nathalie Alquier, a 52-year-old psychologist from Paris. “It’s just unbearable.”
The recent unrest reminds v yellow vest (yellow vest) protests in late 2018 over high fuel prices that forced President Macron to partially repeal the carbon tax.
A broad alliance of all French unions said it would continue its mobilization and try to force a similar reversal of the pension reform bill.
The ninth day of mass protests across the country is scheduled for Thursday.
The capital’s municipal garbage collectors are on a rolling strike, leaving around 10,000 tons of garbage rotting on the streets of Paris. Paris’ police chief has ordered the requisition of garbage collectors after the mayor of Paris said that inr to the government to understand the reasons for the mass demonstrations.
A union official said on Saturday that the strikers would halt production at two incinerators outside Paris and stop several trucks from running “to limit the risk of an epidemic”.
In the energy sector, the left-wing CGT union said strikers would shut down production at two refineries by this weekend or Monday at the latest.
Some railway workers and air traffic controllers are also on strike, which has resulted in the cancellation of planes and trains over the weekend and on Monday
Teachers’ unions have called for strikes next week that could disrupt the landmark high school Baccalaureate exams.
Opposition MPs submitted two motions of no confidence in the government, which will be debated in parliament on Monday.
They hope to garner enough support to oust the cabinet and repeal the pension reform law.
But while the prime minister may be weak, her cabinet is expected to survive the vote.
To be passed, the vote of no confidence needs the support of a majority of MPs (287) – which means half of the Conservative Republicans (LR), who negotiated the final text with the government.
Although some have said they could break ranks, it seems unlikely that half will vote with hard-left and far-right parties and against the government.