Parisian banned rallies at two key sites of anti-government protests on Saturday, as thousands of people continued to demonstrate around the country against French President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms.
People gathered in the streets on Thursday and Friday evening to push back against the government resorting to Article 49.3 of the French Constitution to force through the controversial pension reform bill that will raise the age of retirement from 62 to 64.
Over 300 people have been arrested around the country, 258 of them in the Place de la Concorde in Paris, opposite to the French parliament.
“Due to serious risks of disturbances to public order and security … any gathering on … Place de la Concorde and its surroundings as well as in the area of the Avenue des Champs-Elysées is prohibited,” a police statement read, according to the AFP news agency. “People who try to gather there will be systematically evicted by the police and may be fined,” the police stated.
However, demonstrators have continued to publicly air their displeasure, finding alternative areas to wave banners and union flags. One group entered the shopping area of Les Halles in the center of Paris on Saturday afternoon.
Clashes on Saturday night
Paris police clashed with demonstrators for a third night on Saturday as thousands of people marched throughout the country. There were 81 arrests on Saturday night.
“Macron, Resign!” and “Macron is going to break down, we are going to win,” demonstrators chanted on the Place d’Italie in southern Paris. Riot police used tear gas and clashed with some in the crowd as trash bins were set on fire.
Earlier in the French capital, a group of students and activists from the ‘Revolution Permanente’ collective briefly invaded the Forum des Halles shopping mall, waving banners calling for a general strike and shouting “Paris stand up, rise up”, videos on social media showed.
BFM television also showed images of demonstrations underway in cities such as Compiegne in the north, Nantes in the west and Marseille in the south. In Bordeaux, in the southwest, police also used tear gas against protesters who had started a fire.
“The reform must be implemented … Violence cannot be tolerated,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told Le Parisien newspaper.
A broad alliance of France’s main unions has said it would continue to mobilize to try to force a U-turn on the changes. A day of nationwide industrial action is scheduled for Thursday.