PARIS (AP) — France was slated for a wave of protests this weekend against President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial pension reform, as trash continued to stink on the streets of Paris and beyond amid a strike by garbage collectors.
An eerie calm returned to Paris on Saturday after two nights of thousands of strong protests in the French capital, with one flashpoint at the elegant Place de la Concorde where angry protesters threw an effigy of Macron into a bonfire to the cheers of the crowd. Police dispersed people with tear gas and water cannons and there were hundreds of arrests.
Protesters seek to pressure lawmakers to overthrow Macron’s government and doom an unpopular increase in the retirement age he is trying to impose without a vote in the National Assembly.
More protests were planned on Saturday in Paris and in the cities of Marseille and Nantes, but they were expected to be smaller than the previous days.
In the 12th arrondissement of Paris, rubbish piled meters away from a bakery on Saturday, spreading fumes, encouraged by the mild weather and sunshine. Some Parisians who bought their weekend baguette blamed Macron’s administration.
“The government must change its position and listen to the people, because what is happening is extremely serious. And we see a radicalization,” says Isabelle Vergriette, 64, a psychologist. “The government is largely responsible for this.”
The mayor of the district, Emmanuelle Pierre-Marie, was out at the crack of dawn expressing concern in her neighborhood about the impact of the rubbish pile, which has become a visual and olfactory symbol of the anti-retirement campaign.
“Food waste is our priority because it brings pests to the surface,” says Pierre-Marie. “We are extremely sensitive to the situation. As soon as we have a dump truck available, we give priority to the most affected places, such as food markets.”
Strikes are planned for Monday in numerous sectors, from transport to energy. The civil aviation authority asked to cancel 30% of flights at Orly, Paris’ second airport, and 20% at Marseille.
Laurent Berger, head of the moderate trade union CFDT, said the pension reform “should be withdrawn”.
“We condemn violence. … But look at the anger. It is very strong, even in our ranks,” he said on RMC radio.
On Friday, a day after Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne invoked a special constitutional power to bypass a vote in the chaotic lower chamber, lawmakers on the right and left filed no-confidence motions to be put to a vote on Monday.