Protests continue in France amid anger over Macron’s retirement age reform

PARIS, March 18 (Reuters) – Strikes at refineries continued in France on Saturday and further demonstrations erupted across the country amid anger at the government for pushing through raising the state retirement age without a parliamentary vote.

The growing civil unrest, combined with garbage piling up on the streets of Paris after garbage workers joined the action, have presented President Emmanuel Macron with the most serious challenge to his authority since the so-called “gilets jaunes” (yellow vests) protests in December 2018

About 37% of operating staff at TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA) refineries and depots – at sites including Feyzin in south-eastern France and Normandy in the north – went on strike on Saturday, a company spokesman said.

Meanwhile, the rolling strikes on the railroads continued.

Clashes erupted between riot police and protesters in Paris on Friday night as a demonstration took place in the capital’s Place de la Concorde near the Assemblee Nationale parliament building, resulting in the arrest of 61 people.

That prompted the Paris Prefecture on Saturday to ban rallies on Place de la Concorde and the nearby Champs-Elysees.

However, another rally was scheduled for later Saturday at the Place d’Italie in southern Paris.

Elsewhere in the French capital, a group of students and activists from the “Revolution Permanente” collective briefly invaded the Forum des Halles shopping center, waving banners calling for a general strike and shouting “Paris rise, rise,” videos showed on social media.

BFM television also showed images of demonstrations in cities such as Compiègne in the north, Nantes in the west and Marseille in the south.

“There is no place for violence. You have to respect parliamentary democracy,” Jean-Noel Barrot, Minister for Digital Transition and Telecoms, told Radio Sud.

A broad coalition of France’s main unions has said it will continue to mobilize to try to force a reversal of the changes. A nationwide industrial action day is scheduled for Thursday.

While the eight-day nationwide protests since mid-January and many local industrial action have so far been largely peaceful, the unrest over the past three days is reminiscent of the Yellow Vest protests that erupted in late 2018 over high gasoline prices that forced Macron to make a partial about-face on a carbon tax.

Macron’s overhaul raises the retirement age by two years to 64, which the government says is essential to ensure the system doesn’t go bust.

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, Gilles Guillaume and Forrest Crellin; Adaptation by David Holmes

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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