West News Wire: Protests against the government’s intentions to raise the French pension age continued in Paris for a second night, resulting in clashes between riot police and demonstrators.

President Emmanuel Macron is facing the greatest threat to his authority since the so-called “Gilets Jaunes” or “Yellow Vest” protests in December 2018 as a result of the growing unrest that has been occurring since the beginning of the year, which has led to a wave of strikes and a buildup of trash on the streets of the French capital.

On Friday night, as protestors gathered near the Assemblee Nationale parliament building in the Place de la Concorde, police used tear gas to disperse the unruly gathering.

Several protesters yelled “Macron, Resign!” as they faced a row of riot cops.

The protest at Paris’s elegant Place de Concorde started with a festive spirit as several thousand demonstrators chanted, danced and lit a huge bonfire. But it soon degenerated into a scene echoing Thursday night as riot police charged and used tear gas to empty the square while some protesters lobbed fireworks and threw paving stones at police.

On Thursday night, police also baton-charged the crowds and used water cannons while small groups, then set street fires in chic neighbourhoods nearby.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin told radio station RTL that 310 people were arrested overnight, most of them in Paris.

Scattered protests were also held in cities around France from a march in Bordeaux to a rally in Toulouse.

Port officers in Calais temporarily stopped ferries from crossing the English Channel to Dover. Some university campuses in Paris were blocked and protesters occupied a high-traffic ring road around the French capital.

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Paris rubbish collectors have extended their strike for a 12th day, with piles of foul-smelling rubbish growing in the streets. Striking sanitation workers also continued to block Europe’s largest incineration site and two other sites that treat rubbish from the capital.

Some yellow vest activists, who mounted formidable protests against Macron’s economic policies during his first term, were among those who relayed Friday’s Paris protest on social media. Police say that “radicalised yellow vests” are among troublemakers at protest marches.

The French are deeply attached to keeping the official retirement age at 62, which is among the lowest in OECD countries.

Macron’s administration used a special constitutional power to push through the pension reforms which will, among other things, gradually increase the retirement age from 62 to 64.

Left-wing and centrist opposition legislators filed a motion of no-confidence in parliament on Friday afternoon. But even though Macron lost his absolute majority in France’s lower house in elections last year, there was little chance this would go through unless a surprise alliance of legislators from all sides is formed.

Going ahead without a vote “is a denial of democracy a total denial of what has been happening in the streets for several weeks”, 52-year-old psychologist Nathalie Alquier said in Paris.

“It’s just unbearable.”

Protests are planned for this weekend and a new day of nationwide industrial action is scheduled for next Thursday. Teachers’ unions called for strikes next week, which could disrupt the emblematic Baccalaureate high-school exams.


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