PARIS, March 18 — Paris police clashed with protesters for a third night on Saturday, as thousands marched across the country in anger at the government pushing for an increase in the state pension age without a parliamentary vote.
Growing unrest and strikes have left President Emmanuel Macron facing the biggest challenge to his authority since the so-called “Gilets Jaunes” (yellow vest) protests four years ago.
“Macron, resign!” and “Macron is going to break, we are going to win,” protesters chanted on the Place d’Italie in southern Paris. Riot police used tear gas and clashed with some in the crowd as rubbish bins were set on fire.
Municipal authorities had banned gatherings in Paris’s central Place de la Concorde and nearby Champ-Elysees on Saturday night after demonstrations that resulted in 61 arrests over the previous two nights.
Earlier in the French capital, a group of students and activists from the collective “Revolution Permanente” briefly invaded the Forum des Halles shopping mall, waving banners calling for a general strike and “Paris rise, rise,” videos posted on social media showed.
BFM television also showed footage of ongoing demonstrations in cities such as Compiègne in the north, Nantes in the west and Marseille in the south. In Bordeaux, in the southwest, police also fired tear gas at demonstrators who set fires.
“There is no place for violence. One must respect parliamentary democracy,” Jean-Noel Barrot, Minister of Digital Transition and Telecommunications, told Sud radio.
A broad alliance of France’s main trade unions has said it will continue to mobilize to try and force the changes. A national action day is scheduled for Thursday.
Garbage piles up in the streets of Paris after garbage collectors joined the action.
About 37% of operational staff at TotalEnergies refineries and depots (TTEF.PA), including in Feyzin in southeastern France and Normandy in the north, were on strike on Saturday, a company spokesman said. Rolling strikes continued on the railways.
While eight days of nationwide protests since mid-January and many local union actions have been largely peaceful so far, the unrest of the past three days is reminiscent of the yellow vest protests that erupted in late 2018 over high fuel prices. Those demonstrations forced Macron to partially reverse a carbon tax.
Macron’s revision raises the retirement age by two years to 64, which the government says is essential to ensure the system does not go bankrupt.