“Paris, stand up! Get up!” Dozens of protesters shouted this Saturday in Les Halles, the most important shopping center in the French capital, spreading red smoke and showing banners calling for a general strike. A new form of protest that adds to those that have been lit since Thursday against the government of the president Emmanuel Macronafter the approval by decree of the controversial pension reform, which proposes delaying the retirement age from 62 to 64 years.
Minutes before, the Police announced the strict prohibition to demonstrate in the Plaza La Concordia and the Champs Elysees, as has happened since the day that the French Prime Minister, Elizabeth Borne, activated article 49.3 of the French Constitution to pass the law without waiting for a vote by the National Assembly. “People who protest in the area may be arrested and fined,” warned the prefecture this Saturday, while dozens of police vehicles already flooded the iconic square and the vicinity of Parliament.
But as seen at the mall Les Halles, the protests do not stop, they are transformed. At the end of the afternoon, the trade unionists, workers and detractors of the reform in general begin to meet at the Place d’Italiesoutheast of Paris, far from the Police installed in the Concorde.
Catherinea union member of the General Confederation of Labor, the powerful CGT, has mobilized up to this point and does not hesitate to charge Macron: «For me, approving the law by decree is a sign of weakness. It is a demonstration that the president does not have the necessary majority to approve the law and in the end, he imposes it by force », explains Catherine. «I am 60 years old and I will not have my retirement until 64. That is serious. There are some six million people who are going to pay the unfair cost of this reform», apostille.
Cédric, 44, a high school teacher, is also among the protesters. He is concerned not only with retirement but the increase in the price of life: «Everything increases. The food is much more expensive. The gas bill for my house came to 178 euros this month. It’s not just retirement, it’s an entire economic model that Macron arrogantly imposes, without consulting anyone. I fear that if the reform is approved this time, the retirement age will continue to be increased tomorrow. To what How old am I going to retire, then? At seventy?», reflects Cédric indignantly.
The protest was also experienced in other cities in France: in Marseille, about 1,500 demonstrators marched down the famous avenue Canebière to the train station, with clashes on the road with the city gendarmes. In Bordeaux, fires broke out in the commercial areahe. In Nantes, Caen, Le Havre and Toulouse thousands of people took to the streets in protest.
And beyond the popular demonstrations, there are also actions that affect the functioning of the country, such as the stoppage of the Normandy refinery, the largest in France, operated by the oil giant Total. Since Friday, the supply of refined oil has been suspendedwhich could lead – within a few days – to a fuel shortage. A nightmare that the French already lived through during the “Yellow Vests” protests in 2018 and that they do not want to suffer again.
Also, there is the strike of the garbage collectors that has already lasted for two weeks and that mainly affects the French capital. It is estimated that more than 10,000 tons of waste have accumulated in the streets of Paris, after the socialist mayor, Anne Hidalgo, will refuse to intervene the collection services. The garbage collectors refuse to retire at 59, as proposed in the new pension reform, two years later than the current retirement age: 57.
As a curious note and to the discontent of many, in the midst of the chaos that reigns in Paris, the mayoress Anne Hidalgo traveled to meet him Pope Francisco in the Vatican, to discuss the issue of the reconstruction of Notre Dame.
For now, the unions support the call for a general strike for this Thursday, March 23, which would include, for example, a total stoppage of public transport.
President Macron is expected to address the country this coming week to explain the reform and its approval by decree. Although nothing guarantees that he will be able to calm the street.