< /p> French police officers at a demonstration against pension reform in Paris, March 17, 2023.
Paris – Today, protests continue throughout France against the increase in the retirement age, which the government supported by President Emmanuel Macron decided to push through without the approval of the Chamber of Deputies. After the announcement of this procedure on Thursday, riots intensified in the demonstrations and the police arrested dozens more people overnight after new clashes. Authorities in Paris have banned gatherings around the National Assembly and the Elysee Palace as a precaution, French media reports.
Photo gallery: Resistance to pension reform in France
Late Friday evening and overnight today, police in the capital arrested 61 people after thousands of people, some of whom set up barricades, gathered in Svornost Square and a fire broke out in the square during the protest. Some of the protesters also clashed with the police, who, like on Thursday evening, used tear gas.
Another 36 people were arrested in Lyon, where some protesters broke into the fourth arrondissement town hall and damaged it. In addition, according to the police, they tried to start a fire in the building, but they did not succeed after the intervention of law enforcement. The lighting of fires, the destruction of flower pots, the dumping of trash cans and other incidents are also reported from Strasbourg, where 1,600 people gathered for the protest.
“We warned the President of the Republic,” commented the head of the CGT trade union headquarters, Philippe Martinez, on the development. He is one of the leaders of the two-month-long protests against the pension reform, which includes raising the threshold for retirement. According to the government and President Macron, it is necessary to implement this and other measures to keep the French pension system financially afloat, but surveys indicate that the majority of the public does not agree with the interventions.
New protest marches began this afternoon in the cities of Nantes, Caen and Mans, and opponents of the reform planned actions across the country. In Paris, trade unionists called an early evening demonstration on Place d'Italie. Gatherings are prohibited on Concord Square after two restless evenings, as well as on Champs-Élysées. Both sites are near the president's residence and the lower house of parliament.
Strikes are also continuing, including one by garbage collectors in Paris, where city hall says thousands of tons of trash have piled up on the streets. Dissatisfaction with the pension reform is also expressed by 37 percent of TotalEnergies' refinery and warehouse employees, who have been on strike since this morning, a company spokesman told Reuters. Protests are also expected in France on Sunday, and the unions are calling for another “mobilization” on Thursday.
A large part of the French dislikes not only the content of the reform, but also the way in which President Macron is trying to enforce it. When approving changes to the pension system, the government bypassed the MPs because, unlike the Senate, they did not have majority support. This was made possible by an article in the constitution that allows the cabinet to pass a law without the National Assembly voting on it. In such a case, however, the government runs the risk that deputies will trigger a vote of no confidence. Opposition lawmakers have already done so, and parliament is scheduled to discuss their initiative on Monday.
Revision of the French pension system is, among other things, to raise the retirement age by two years to 64, which the government says is necessary to prevent the system from going bankrupt . The number of years of service required to receive the full amount of the pension is also to increase. But thanks to the reform, people who started working very young or performed highly demanding occupations, for example in a noisy environment or at night, will be able to retire earlier. Maternity and paternity leave should also be taken into account and, for example, the minimum old-age pension should be increased.