France bans anti-pension protests outside parliament

PARIS: France banned protests outside parliament on Saturday after a second night of unrest sparked by the president Emmanuel Macron impose an unpopular pension overhaul without a parliamentary vote.
Peaceful marches began in other parts of the country, however, after the Macron government on Thursday invoked controversial executive power to impose the bill by decree.
The move sparked outrage among the political class as well as angry protests on the streets, presenting the 45-year-old leader with one of his greatest challenges less than a year into his second and final term.
Opposition lawmakers have tabled two no-confidence motions in the government which will be debated in parliament on Monday afternoon, according to parliamentary sources.
They hope to garner enough support to overthrow the cabinet and repeal the law to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.
Paris police banned demonstrations in the capital on Saturday Place de la Concorde across the Seine from parliament, after clashes the previous two nights between protesters and police.
He said he was doing so “because of serious risks of disturbing public order”.
But people marched in other parts of the country after unions called for a weekend of protests.
In the eastern city of Besan├žon, some 300 people gathered on Saturday morning, an AFP journalist said.
Among them, Nathalie, a woman in her thirties, threw her voter card into the fire.
“I elected my MP but he was deprived of his right to vote. We are in the midst of a denial of democracy,” she said, refusing to give her last name.
Philippe Martinezboss of the CGT union, marched among some 200 people in the town of Meaux in the Paris region.
Others gathered in the northern port city of Le Havre.
“Macron, already deaf at 45?” read a sign on the back of a protester’s jacket.
Unions have called for another day of nationwide strikes and rallies on Thursday.
– Unrest overnight – Thousands of people gathered in the capital’s Place de la Concorde on Friday to express their frustration with the government forcing the reform, despite two months of strikes and demonstrations against the change.
The police intervened to disperse the crowd at nightfall, after the ignition of a fire at Place de la Concorde, AFP journalists said.
Groups of people threw bottles and fireworks at security forces, who responded by firing tear gas in an attempt to clear the square. Police said they made 61 arrests.
In the city of Lyon, in the south-east, demonstrators tried to break into a town hall and set fire to the building, said the police, who reported 36 arrests.
Opinion polls have shown around two-thirds of French people oppose the reform, which also involves forcing people to work longer for a full pension.
The government has said it is necessary to prevent the system from sliding into deficit and to bring France into line with its European neighbors where the legal retirement age is generally later.
But critics say the changes are unfair to people who start working at a young age in physically demanding jobs and women who take career breaks to raise children.
Protests since mid-January have gathered some of the largest crowds in decades, but the grassroots movement seemed to start to wane in the days before the government imposed the bill.
Municipal garbage collectors in the capital, however, maintained an ongoing strike, leaving an estimated 10,000 tonnes of rubbish rotting in the streets on Friday.
A union delegate, however, said on Saturday that the strikers of three incinerators in the Paris region would let garbage trucks pass “to limit the risk of an epidemic”.
In the energy sector, the CGT union said strikers would halt production at two refineries by this weekend or Monday at the latest.
Unions at national rail operator SNCF on Friday urged workers to press ahead with another continuing strike that has caused major disruption to the network.
Macron put pension reform at the center of his re-election campaign last year.
But the former banker lost his parliamentary majority in June after elections to the National Assembly.
The government used the controversial Article 49.3 of the constitution on Thursday as it feared it would not have enough support in the lower house to win a vote on the pensions bill.
But the prime minister Elisabeth Bornethe cabinet is largely expected to survive any votes of no confidence.
The motion would need the support of about half of the opposition right-wing Republican group, a scenario seen as highly unlikely.


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