(Paris) Opponents of pension reform in France plan to express their anger over the weekend with new rallies, but the specter of radicalization, after the forced passage of the executive, led to the ban of any gathering at Place de la Concorde in Paris.
After two evenings of demonstrations interspersed with incidents, the police headquarters banned gatherings on Place de la Concorde, the largest in Paris, and on the Champs-Élysées. These places are located near the National Assembly and the presidential palace of the Élysée.
“People who try to gather there will be systematically evicted by the police” and may be fined, the prefecture told AFP, citing “serious risks of disturbances to public order and public safety”.
Since the government’s decision on Thursday to force through the pension reform wanted by President Emmanuel Macron, the opposition has taken a more radical turn, carried by young activists tired of weekly processions and ready to do battle.
Friday evening, like the day before, thousands of people gathered at Place de la Concorde. A brazier was lit and the mood grew tense as night fell, with police charging into the crowd.
Several hundred people confronted the police with bottles and fireworks, who responded with tear gas. According to the police headquarters, 61 people were arrested.
The day before, 10,000 protesters had gathered there and 258 people had been arrested.
The government decided Thursday to resort to article 49.3 of the Constitution which allows the adoption of a text without a vote, unless a mention of censure is voted against the executive.
This decision is considered almost unanimously as a setback for Emmanuel Macron, who has bet a lot of his political credit on this key reform of his second five-year term.
Two motions of censure were tabled against the government and the inter-union called for rallies on Saturday and Sunday, as well as a 9th day of strikes and demonstrations on Thursday, against this decried reform which notably provides for the decline in the age of retirement from age 62 to 64.
At least two refineries, that of PetroIneos in Lavéra (south-east) and that of TotalEnergies in Gonfreville-l’Orcher (north-west), could be shut down by Monday at the latest, according to the CGT union. Until now, strikers have blocked fuel shipments.
French Industry Minister Roland Lescure hinted on Saturday that the government could make requisitions in the event of the shutdown of these facilities, to avoid fuel shortages.
He said such measures were “being rolled out” with garbage collectors in the capital, where 10,000 tonnes of trash are piling up on the sidewalks, according to the town hall.
Gatherings are planned throughout the weekend: Place d’Italie in Paris, in the second French city Marseille, but also in Brest (west), Toulon, Montpellier (southeast)…
In Besançon (east), 300 demonstrators lit a brazier on Saturday and some burned their voter cards there.
“What am I going to answer to young people who tell me ‘voting is useless’? I elected my deputy and he is deprived of the vote. We are in full democratic denial, “explained Nathalie, a 30-year-old who did not wish to give her last name.
Motions of no confidence must be considered in the National Assembly on Monday from 4 p.m. (11 a.m. Eastern).
The deputies of an independent centrist parliamentary group (Liot) tabled a “transpartisan” motion, co-signed by elected members of the radical left (Nupes).
Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (far right) also tabled a motion of no confidence, stressing that it would vote for all motions presented.
To bring down the government, a motion must receive an absolute majority in the Assembly, or 287 votes. This would require in particular that around thirty right-wing deputies Les Républicains (out of 61) vote for the motion of the Liot group.
On Friday, the general secretary of the reformist union CFDT, Laurent Berger, again warned of the mounting anger and called on the French president to “withdraw the reform”.
The government has chosen to raise the retirement age to respond to the financial deterioration of pension funds and the aging of the population.
France is one of the European countries where the legal retirement age is the lowest, even if the pension systems are not completely comparable.