French pension protests mostly calm, while uncollected trash piles up

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Protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise France’s retirement age from 62 to 64 took place in Paris on Saturday and beyond, as garbage strewn the streets of the French capital amid a strike by cleaners.

Largely non-violent protests took place in various cities, including Nantes and Marseille, where protesters blocked police at the main train station for about 15 minutes. In the eastern city of Besançon, hundreds of protesters lit bonfires and burned voter cards.

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In Paris, an eerie calm returned to most of the French capital after two consecutive nights of unrest.

Police banned gatherings on the Champs-Élysées avenue and the elegant Place de la Concorde, where protesters threw an effigy of Macron into a bonfire while crowds cheered on Friday night.

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Several thousand protesters gathered in the Place d’Italie, a public square in southern Paris, on Saturday evening, where some set rubbish bins on fire.

Demonstrators are trying to pressure lawmakers to topple Macron’s government and destroy the unpopular retirement age hike he is trying to impose without a vote in the National Assembly.

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Lawmakers on the right and left filed a vote of no confidence against her cabinet on Friday after Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne invoked a special constitutional power to skirt a vote in the chaotic lower chamber. These proposals are expected to be voted on on Monday.

Some Parisians who were buying their weekend baguettes blamed Macron’s administration for fumes billowing from a garbage dump near a bakery in the city’s 12th arrondissement.

“The government should change its position and listen to the people because what is happening is very serious. And we are seeing a radicalization,” said Isabelle Vergriet, 64, a psychologist. “To a large extent the government is to blame.”

The mayor of the district, Emmanuel Pierre-Marie, was out in the morning sounding concerns about the consequences of uncontrolled waste in his neighborhood, which has become a visual and olfactory symbol of actions to thwart the president’s pension reform plan.

“Food waste is our priority because it brings pests to the surface,” Pierre-Marie said. “We are extremely sensitive to the situation. We prioritize the most relevant locations, such as food markets, as soon as we have a dumpster truck available.

More labor strikes were planned for Monday in a range of sectors, from transport to energy. The civil aviation authority asked for the cancellation of 30% of flights at Orly, Paris’ second airport, and 20% at Marseille.

Trade union confederation CGT warned that at least two oil refineries could be closed from Monday. Industry Minister Roland Lascure said the government could make personnel requisitions – ordering workers back to their posts – to avoid fuel shortages.

Macron has argued that people in France need to work two more years to shore up the country’s economy and prevent its pension system from falling into deficit as the population ages.

Laurent Berger, head of the liberal CFDT union, said the retirement reform “must be withdrawn.”

“We condemn the violence. … but see the anger. It is also very strong among our ranks,” he said on RMC Radio.

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