Retirement protests in France: Paris bans gatherings near key sites to quell unrest
Paris police have banned gatherings in city neighborhoods around major government sites in a bid to end protests against French plans to raise the retirement age by two years without a vote.
“Due to serious risks of disturbances to public order and security (…) any gathering at Place de la Concorde and its surroundings as well as in the sector of the Avenue des Champs-Elysées is prohibited”, indicated police, according to an AFP report. “People who try to gather there will be systematically expelled by the police.”
French President Emmanuel Macron moved to push through the new legislation, which would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, using Article 49.3 of the constitution, which allows him to pass legislation without a parliamentary vote. His decision proved deeply unpopular, sparking nationwide protests.
Protesters have gathered in cities including Bordeaux, Marseille and elsewhere as they continue to demand the vote, which Macron does not seem confident he would pass.
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Despite the Paris ban, the protests still continued on Saturday, gathering instead in the Les Halles shopping district in central Paris, according to Politico.
More than eight in 10 people are unhappy with the government’s decision to skip a vote in parliament, and 65% want strikes and protests to continue, according to a Toluna Harris Interactive poll for RTL radio.
The protests have hit a number of vital industries, including refineries, garbage collection and railways, The Guardian reported.
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CGT union leader Philippe Martinez stressed that the group had made it clear to Macron that the protests would continue as long as he pushed ahead with his plan to ram through the legislation.
“No one can say we didn’t say anything: we told him,” Martinez said, adding that “the situation was explosive.”
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Street protests were largely peaceful, but police clashed with protesters on Friday night, with 61 people arrested after a fire was started near the National Assembly. The demonstrators chanted “Macron, resign!” as they confronted a line of riot police.
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More than 300 people have been arrested across the country, including 258 in the area around the National Assembly in recent days.
A broad alliance of France’s main unions said they would continue to try to force a U-turn on the changes.
Reuters contributed to this report.