French protests drag on after Macron's pension plan push
By SYLVIE CORBET The Associated Press
PARIS (AP) — French garbage collectors, refinery workers and others were striking again on Tuesday against President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to force the divisive bill raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 through without a vote in parliament.
Macron’s move infuriated many in the country.
Paris police said Tuesday that 234 people were arrested overnight in the capital mostly for setting fire to garbage in the streets.
Mostly small, scattered protests were held in cities around France, some degenerating into violence late Monday. In Paris, small groups took to the streets to set fire to piles of trash that have formed because of a strike by garbage collectors in the capital that is in its 16th day.
Paris police prefect Laurent Nunez said the violence was caused by groups of up to 300 people quickly moving through the capital.
Nunez news broadcaster BFM TV that he ordered an internal investigation after an officer was filmed punching a man who was walking backwards, making him fall to the ground. The video has been widely shared on French social media.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne expressed the government’s “solidarity” towards 400 police officers who have been injured in recent days, including 42 overnight.
Macron has planned a series of political meetings on Tuesday with the prime minister, parliamentary leaders and lawmakers from his centrist alliance, one day after the government survived to two no-confidence motions.
The 45-year-old French president, who made the pension plan a centerpiece of his second term, will speak Wednesday on national television — the first time since he made the decision last week to use a government’s special constitutional power to force the bill through parliament. He’s expected to back his government.
Speaking at the lower chamber of parliament Tuesday, Borne vowed to continue to work “in the coming months to seek the best responses to the concerns of the French” including through “compromises and work with lawmakers.”
But leftist lawmaker Mathilde Panot warned Borne that “you will yield.”
“There are not many options left to Emmanuel Macron,” Panot added, demanding that the pension bill be withdrawn or new legislative elections be called.
The bill still faces a review by the Constitutional Council before it can be formally signed into law.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne is going to refer the issue to the body to accelerate the process, her office said. Some opposition lawmakers from the far right also have filed a request, and leftists are expected to do the same.
The Constitutional Council can reject articles within the measure if they aren’t in line with the constitution. Opponents argue that the text as a whole should be rejected.
Paris police authorities said in a statement Tuesday that they ordered garbage employees to work in order to ensure a “minimum service.” It said that 674 staff have been covered by the orders, allowing 206 garbage trucks to operate since last week.
Meanwhile, oil shipments in the country were partially disrupted amid strikes at several refineries in western and southern France.
The Energy Transition Ministry said Tuesday that it would require some employees who are “indispensable to the functioning” of the Fos-sur-Mer oil depot, in southern France, to return to work. The move led some protesters to head to the site to support strikers.
Some tensions have erupted between protesters trying to block access to the site, some throwing stones, and police using tear gas to move them away.
The Fos-sur-Mer depot supplies fuel for gas stations in the southeast of France, which currently are the most affected by shortages. French government spokesperson Olivier Veran warned that more orders may follow in the coming days for other sites.
Unions have called for new nationwide protests on Thursday to demand the government simply withdraw the retirement bill.