Waste has become barricades
Piles of trash bags left behind by striking scavengers continue to pile up in Paris, serving in part successfully as makeshift barricades for protesters. Shocking images of the once-quiet streets of Paris, where celebrities, tourists and ordinary citizens alike loved to stroll, are circulating on social media. These avenues turned into a continuous pile of rubbish, torn, in places burned, taller than human height.
Protests sparked by French President Emmanuel Macron’s attempt to raise the legal retirement age from 62 to 64 have turned violent over the past ten days. In the coming days, the unions have planned new protests which will put more pressure on the already struggling Macron government and have already prompted British King Charles III to cancel a long-awaited visit to France. “We will not concede anything to violence,” Macron said at a Friday press conference after the EU summit in Brussels.
According to Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, the doors of Bordeaux City Hall were set on fire on Thursday, and 903 fires were recorded in Paris. The minister accused radical anarchist groups of clashing with police, smashing shop windows and setting fire to uncollected rubbish. “The meeting of kings at Versailles was dispersed by the people”, immediately ridiculed the authorities Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of Invictus France, fierce critic of Macron. “The British are well aware that Darmanin is useless in terms of security,” he added, attacking the French interior minister, who was strongly criticized by the British press after the security fiasco during the final of the Champions League last year in Paris on France 24.
Garbage has not been collected in Paris since March 6, thanks to which masked protesters can burn thousands of tons of waste, notes the British newspaper Daily Mail. Unions are pushing for Macron to ensure that pension reforms will be enshrined in law later this year without a vote in the lower house of parliament.
Macron’s effigy was burned at a rally
Near the Place de la Concorde in the capital, threatening graffiti has been painted with the inscriptions “Mort au Roi” and “Decapitation de Macron”. The demonstrators burned an effigy of the president, equated with the monarch with “his contempt” for the republic.
More than 450 protesters were arrested on Thursday and around 300 rallies across the country drew at least one million protesters, according to unions. Events in Paris were mostly peaceful, with several violent clashes with police on Thursday evening. Clashes also took place between police and protesters in the western cities of Nantes, Rennes and Lorient.
Rail and air communications were disrupted, as was work at oil refineries. Schools were also affected when teachers joined the strike. The Eiffel Tower and the Palace of Versailles were closed on Thursday.
Demonstrations also took place in France on Friday. On the rail side, an average of three out of five trains used the tracks, lines of trucks blocked access to the port of Marseille for several hours, and even more waste accumulated in the streets of Paris.
Unions have called for a tenth national day of action on Tuesday 28 March. At least 4,000 police and gendarmes should be mobilized for the occasion, already exhausted after weeks of demonstrations. “We are on the eve of a mutiny,” a senior riot police officer said in a Mediapart article on Tuesday, noting the heightened risk of casualties as exhausted and overstretched law enforcement faces increasing levels of anger and violence. “The president is playing with fire,” added the officer on condition of anonymity, “this could end in tragedy: the death of a protester.”
After Macron – even a flood
Interior Minister Darmanin, generally seen as a hardliner in the Macron government, was among ministers who pleaded with the president not to enforce Article 49.3 – and for good reason. He was aware of the potential backlash from millions of French people as he watched months of peaceful protests turn into violent outbursts and clashes with police.
From the outset of the protest movement, unions have called on the government not to ignore the millions of peaceful protesters who have taken to the streets in cities and towns across the country, warning of dire consequences if it remains deaf to their anger.
Yet despite the fury of the protests, which could escalate if students join them, as in May 1968, the risk that Macron himself will have to leave office is virtually nil. Having ‘survived’ a vote of no confidence in the government, he may attempt to reshuffle his cabinet and fire Prime Minister Elisabeth Born, but the presidential system in France is designed so that the leader is almost guaranteed to remain president to the last. day of his mandate, that is until 2027, notes the columnist of Politico.
The bigger question, then, is what will happen after Macron, whose leadership style is often described as regal even by the standards of the French monarchist Republic, leaves the political scene for good. Constitutionally barred from running for a third term, Macron will leave behind a leaderless ruling party that may well cease to exist without him, creating a vacuum that far-left and far-right leaders, including the three-time presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, longs to fill. And with Macron now firmly in power, the parliamentary uprising his government faced this week and the chaos that engulfed the country raise questions about the future for anyone hoping France will remain firmly tied to pro-politics. European and pro-NATO. liberal camp. In other words, “after Macron – even a flood,” the publication concludes.
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