New demonstrations in France, Place de la Concorde banned

Demonstrators march in Paris against pension reform, March 15, 2023. Photo by REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Opponents of pension reform in France plan to vent their anger over the weekend with more rallies, but the specter of radicalization following the forced passage of executive power has led to a ban on all gatherings at the Place de la Concorde in Paris.

After two nights of demonstrations punctuated by incidents, the police headquarters banned gatherings in the Place de la Concorde, the largest in Paris, and the Champs Elysées. These places are located near the National Assembly and the presidential palace of the Elysee Palace. “People who try to gather there will be systematically evicted by the police” and could be fined, the prefecture told AFP, citing “serious risks of disturbing order and public safety.”

After the government decided on Thursday to push through the pension reform advocated by President Emmanuel Macron, the opposition has taken more radical action, led by young activists tired of the weekly marches and ready to fight.

On Friday evening, like the day before, thousands of people gathered in the Place de la Concorde. The brazier was lit, and as night fell, the mood began to heat up as the police rushed into the crowd. Several hundred people confronted police with bottles and fireworks, who responded with tear gas. According to the police headquarters, 61 people were detained.

The day before, 10 thousand demonstrators gathered there, 258 people were arrested. On Thursday, the government decided to resort to Article 49.3 of the Constitution, which allows a text to be adopted without a vote unless references to censure vote against the executive.

Failure for Macron

The decision is almost unanimously seen as a setback for Emmanuel Macron, who has staked much of his political credit on this key reform of his second five-year term.

Two votes of no confidence were submitted to the government, and the union called for rallies on Saturday and Sunday, and a 9th day of strikes and demonstrations on Thursday against this condemned reform, which includes lowering the retirement age. from 62 to 64 years old.

At least two refineries, PetroIneos in Lavere (southeast) and TotalEnergies in Gonfreville-l’Orche (northwest), could be closed no later than Monday, according to the CGT union. So far, the strikers have blocked fuel supplies.

France’s Industry Minister Roland Lescure suggested on Saturday that the government could requisition if the plants shut down to avoid fuel shortages. He said such measures are being “applied” to garbage collectors in the capital, where 10,000 tons of trash are piling up on sidewalks, according to the mayor’s office. Meetings are scheduled throughout the weekend: Place d’Italie in Paris, in the second French city of Marseille, as well as in Brest (west), Toulon, Montpellier (southeast)…

“Democratic Denial”

In Besançon (east), 300 demonstrators lit a brazier on Saturday, and some burned their electoral cards there. “What am I going to say to young people who tell me to +vote is useless+? I elected my deputy, and he is disenfranchised. We completely reject democracy,” explained Natalie, 30, who declined to give her last name.

A vote of no confidence is due to be considered in the National Assembly on Monday from 16:00 (15:00 GMT). Deputies of the independent centrist parliamentary group (Lyott) submitted a “trans-party” proposal, signed by elected members of the radical left movement (Nupes).

Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (far right) also moved a vote of no confidence, stressing that it would vote on all proposals submitted. To overthrow the government, the proposal must receive an absolute majority in the Assembly, i.e. 287 votes. This will require, inter alia, that some thirty right-wing deputies of Les Républicains (out of 61) vote in favor of the proposal of the Lyot group.

On Friday, general secretary of the reformist CFDT union, Laurent Bergé, once again warned against growing anger and urged the French president to “reverse the reform.” The government decided to raise the retirement age in response to the deteriorating financial position of pension funds and an aging population. France is one of the European countries where the legal retirement age is the lowest, even if the pension systems are not fully comparable.

Source: L Orient Le Jour

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