Pension reform: protesters target refineries in France

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A protester marches in Paris on March 18, 2023 to show his opposition to pension reform. In the background, fires were lit in the streets of the French capital.

Opponents of the pension reform in France continued to express their anger on Saturday with new rallies and growing blockades in refineries, two days after the decision of the executive to force its way through Parliament.

Fear of a radicalization of the protest led the authorities to ban all gatherings on the Parisian Place de la Concorde, close to the National Assembly, and the presidential palace of the Élysée, where clashes broke out on Thursday and Friday evening.

Since the government's decision on Thursday to have the reform passed without a vote in the National Assembly, the mobilization has hardened , carried by young activists, few in number but tired of the massive demonstrations which have followed one another since mid-January to oppose the raising of the retirement age from 62 to 64.

French President Emmanuel Macron has chosen to use Article 49.3 of the French Constitution, which allows him to pass a bill bill without submitting it to the vote of the National Assembly.

To justify the ban on gatherings on Saturday at Place de la Concorde, the prefecture reported serious risks of disturbances to public order and safety.

Friday evening, like the day before, thousands of people gathered in this very large square which opens onto the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

To By nightfall, several hundred people had confronted the police with bottles and fireworks, who responded with tear gas.

The day before, 10,000 demonstrators had gathered there, embittered by Emmanuel Macron's decision to activate Article 49.3 of the Constitution, which allows the adoption of a text without a vote.

Demonstrators march on March 18, 2023 near Place d'Italie, in Paris, against the French government, which used article 49.3 of the Constitution to have its pension reform adopted without a vote on Thursday, March 16, 2023.

Denouncing a denial of democracy, the intersyndicale called for intensifying the mobilization while the government will face two motions of censure on Monday which, in the event of adoption , would lead to the abandonment of this project on which Emmanuel Macron plays a lot of his credit.

Gatherings were planned throughout the weekend: Place d'Italie in Paris, in the second French city, Marseille, as well as in Brest, Toulon, Montpellier… A new day of & #x27;national action is scheduled for Thursday.

A union classified on the left, the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) made an impression by announcing on Saturday that the largest refinery in the country, located in Normandy and operated by TotalEnergies, had begun to be shut down.

A milestone has thus been crossed. Since the start of the movement, fuel shipments have been blocked, but none of the seven French refineries had been completely shut down.

Garbage has been piling up, especially in Paris, since garbage collectors went on strike to protest against the pension reform led by the French government.

Technically very heavy, the The operation will take several days and should not cause any immediate fuel shortages at gas stations across the country, but it could spill over.

At least two more refineries, that of PetroIneos, in Lavéra, and that of TotalEnergies, in Gonfreville-l'Orcher, could be shut down no later than Monday, warned the CGT.

The French Minister of Industry and former chief investment officer of the Caisse de depot et placement du Québec, Roland Lescure, hinted on Saturday that the government could retaliate by requisitioning agents.


Other key sectors of the economy also remain disrupted by the mobilization, particularly in transport and household waste collection.

In Paris, around 10,000 tonnes of waste are awaiting collection on the sidewalks of the capital, even if the town hall noted a stabilization of this stock on Saturday.

The government has there also assured that agents would be requisitioned to start collecting waste, which is overflowing in several areas of the city.

Demonstrators tried to set fire to a borough hall in Lyon on Friday evening.

Across the gatherings, the anger was palpable.

What am I going to answer to young people who tell me "voting is useless"? Me, I elected my deputy and he is deprived of a vote. We are in full democratic denial, explained a demonstrator in Besançon, where some participants burned their voter cards.

In Nantes and Brest, in the; west, where thousands of people pounded the pavement on Saturday, the protests have been marked by tensions with law enforcement.

The government has chosen to raise the #x27;retirement age to respond to the financial deterioration of pension funds and the aging of the population.

France is one of the European countries where the #x27; legal starting age is the lowest, although the systems are not completely comparable.

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