France: Protests continue after push to Macron’s pension plan

PARIS (AP) – Paris police said on Tuesday that 234 people were arrested overnight in the capital mainly for setting fire to trash on the streets, after France’s parliament adopted a controversial bill raising the age pensionable from 62 to 64, approved by President Emmanuel Macron.

Mostly small scattered protests took place in cities across France, some escalating into violent incidents last Monday. In Paris, small groups took to the streets to set fire to the mounds of rubbish that had formed due to a strike by the capital’s garbage collectors which is now in its 16th day.

Paris police prefect Laurent Nunez said the violent incidents were caused by groups of up to 300 people moving rapidly through the capital.

Speaking to broadcaster BFM TV, Nunez said he had ordered an internal investigation after an officer was filmed violently punching a man walking backwards, knocking him to the ground. The video was widely shared on French social media.

Macron scheduled a series of policy meetings on Tuesday with the prime minister, parliament leaders and lawmakers from his centrist alliance.

The French president, who has made the pension plan the centerpiece of his second term, will speak on national television Wednesday, the first time since he made the decision last week to use a government’s special constitutional power to push through the bill. law in parliament. The move prompted two motions of no confidence against the government in the lower house of parliament which were both rejected on Monday.

The bill still needs to be reviewed by the Constitutional Council before it can be formally signed into law.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne will refer the matter to the body to speed up the process, her office said. Some far-right opposition MPs have also tabled a demand and the left is expected to do the same.

The Constitutional Council can reject articles within the measure if they are not in line with the constitution. Opponents argue that the text as a whole should be rejected.

Paris police authorities said in a statement on Tuesday that they had ordered sanitation workers to work to ensure a “minimum service”. It said 674 employees have been covered by the orders, allowing 206 garbage trucks to operate since last week.

Meanwhile, oil shipments to the country have been partially halted due to strikes at several refineries in western and southern France.

The Energy Transition Ministry said on Tuesday it would require some employees who are “essential to the functioning” of the Fos-sur-Mer oil depot in southern France to return to work. The move led some protesters to go to the scene to support the strikers.

Some tensions erupted between protesters trying to block access to the site, some throwing stones and police using tear gas to drive them away.

The Fos-sur-Mer depot supplies fuel to service stations in southeastern France, which are currently the most affected by shortages. French government spokesman Olivier Veran said the government order began to be implemented from Monday evening and warned that other orders could follow in the coming days.

Unions on Thursday called for fresh nationwide protests demanding the government simply withdraw the pension bill.

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