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Protests Erupt In France After Macron's Retirement Age Drive

On Friday, angry protesters took to the streets in Paris and other cities for a second day, attempting to put pressure on lawmakers to bring down French President Emmanuel Macron's administration

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Angry demonstrators took to the streets in Paris and other cities for a second day on Friday, attempting to put pressure on lawmakers to destabilize French President Emmanuel Macron's government and derail the unpopular retirement age increase he's attempting to impose without a vote in the National Assembly.

A day after Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne used a special constitutional power to avoid a vote in the chaotic lower house, lawmakers from both parties submitted no-confidence motions to be voted on Monday.

A festive demonstration of several thousand people in the elegant Place de Concorde degenerated into a scene resembling the night before, complete with chants, dancing, and a massive bonfire. After troublemakers ascended scaffolding on a construction site, arming themselves with wood, riot police charged and threw tear gas to clear the massive square across from the National Assembly. During a standoff, they threw fireworks and paving stones at officers.

On Thursday night, security forces charged and used water cannons to evacuate the area, and small groups started street fires in nearby affluent neighbourhoods. According to French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, 310 individuals were arrested overnight, the majority of whom were in Paris.
Protests were mostly small and dispersed across France, from a march in Bordeaux to a rally in Toulouse. Ferries crossing the English Channel to Dover were briefly halted by port officers in Calais. Protesters occupied a high-traffic ring road around Paris, and some academic campuses were closed.

Garbage collectors in Paris went on strike for the 12th day, with piles of foul-smelling garbage growing every day in the French city. Striking sanitation employees continued to obstruct Europe's biggest incineration plant as well as two other sites that treat garbage in Paris.

Some yellow vest protesters, who staged formidable demonstrations against Macron's economic policies during his first term, were among those who shared images of Friday's Paris rally on social media. According to police, "radicalized yellow vests" are among the troublemakers at demonstration marches.

Trade unions organizing the opposition encouraged protesters to remain peaceful during upcoming strikes and marches. They have called for people to walk out of schools, factories, refineries, and other workplaces in order to force Macron to abandon his plan to require French citizens to work for two more years, until the age of 64, before getting a full pension.

Macron took a calculated risk by ordering Borne to use a special constitutional authority she had used ten times before without eliciting such a strong reaction.

If the no-confidence motions are defeated, the measure becomes law. If a majority accepts, the retirement reform plan will be scrapped, and the government will be forced to resign, though Macron could always re-appoint Borne to name the new Cabinet.

We are not going to stop, Rgis Vieceli, a CGT union representative, told The Associated Press on Friday. He claims that flooding the streets with discontent and declining to work is “the only way we will get them to back down.”

Macron has made proposed pension changes a top priority of his second term, arguing that reform is required to make the French economy more competitive and prevent the pension system from going bankrupt. France, like many other wealthy countries, is experiencing decreased birth rates and longer life expectancy.

Macron's conservative Senate allies approved the bill, but frantic counts of lower-house lawmakers on Thursday revealed a small risk that it would fall short of a majority, prompting Macron to invoke Article 49-3 of the constitution to avoid a vote.

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