Human Lives Human Rights: Protests erupted in the centre of Paris and other French cities as demonstrators clashed with police who used tear gas to clear some areas after the government narrowly survived two votes of no-confidence in the aftermath of President Emmanuel Macron pushing through recent pension reform.
Protests were reported on Monday night in Dijon, Strasbourg — where protesters smashed the windows of a department store — Lyon, and Rennes.
More than 100 people were arrested in Paris alone in tense standoffs between protesters and security forces, police said. On some of the French capital’s most prestigious avenues, firefighters scrambled to put out piles of burning rubbish, left uncollected for days due to strikes and set on fire by protesters.
Clashes due to the pension reform in Paris and throughout the country over the past several nights have been reminiscent of the Yellow Vest protests that erupted in late 2018 over high fuel prices.
A ninth nationwide day of strikes and protests is scheduled on Thursday.
The protests were sparked after motions earlier on Monday were tabled by legislators who were infuriated by Macron’s decision last week to bypass parliament and raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 by using special constitutional powers.
A first multiparty motion was rejected by nine votes while the 577-seat National Assembly overwhelmingly rejected a second motion brought by the far right. With the failure of both votes, the pension change is considered adopted. It will now go to the Constitutional Court for review and could become law in the coming days.
The tight result in the first vote led some left-wing legislators to immediately call for Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne to resign.
“Only nine votes are missing … to bring both the government down and its reform down,” left-wing politician Mathilde Panot said. “The government is already dead in the eyes of the French. It doesn’t have any legitimacy any more.”
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen said her group would file a request for the Constitutional Council to examine the bill on Tuesday and possibly censure it.
Macron says the pension reform is needed to keep the system from diving into deficit as France’s population ages.
But critics of the reform disagree, saying it places an unfair burden on low earners, women and people doing physically demanding jobs. Opinion polls have consistently shown that two-thirds of French people oppose the changes.
Opposition to the bill has reverberated on the streets. French workers have been protesting for weeks and have pledged to continue to ramp up pressure on the government and eventually push it to scrap the law.