April 1, 2023
A protester holds a placard that reads
JULIAN DE ROSA / AFP A protester holds a placard that reads “No to 49.3” during demonstrations near Place d’Italie in Paris, on March 18, 2023, against the French Government after it enacted article 49.3 of the Constitution to allow the adoption of it’s pension reform without a vote, except in case of censure, on March 16, 2023. – Opponents of France’s President’s pension reform plan to express their anger over the weekend, with new rallies and strikes in France, which is plunged into a political crisis after the executive’s power grab. (Photo by JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP)


During a demonstration against the pension reform, in Paris, on March 18, 2023.

PENSIONS REFORM – After the activation of 49.3 and before the debate on the motions of no confidence against the government, the opponents of pension reform take advantage of the weekend to express their anger, in several rallies in the regions and in Paris.

In the capital, Place de la Concorde was placed under very close surveillance by hundreds of police officers and prepositioned water cannons. The police carried out this Saturday, March 18, numerous searches of passers-by and asked those parked to circulate.

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At 7 p.m., the square was emptied of hundreds of people present an hour earlier who were walking around without signs or banners, making it impossible to tell whether they were passers-by or potential demonstrators.

The prefecture had announced earlier that any gathering was prohibited at this place, located a few hundred meters from the National Assembly and the Elysée, a rallying point for opponents of the reform on Thursday and Friday evening. Friday, violent clashes had occurredwith 61 arrests in the end.

Also in Paris, the CGT Île-de-France organized a rally in Place d’Italie (south of Paris), which turned into a procession and went up to the north of the capital.

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Clashes began to occur in the early evening: trash fires, ransacked bus shelters, etc.

A few hundred demonstrators marched through Marseilles. Including Romain Morizot, 33, telecom engineer in aviation, who testifies: “What do we have left except to continue to demonstrate? We only have mobilization, which was peaceful until 49.3. But now it’s potentially going to put social tension everywhere. We will continue, we have no choice”.

The gatherings took place in several places in the regions, from large cities to medium-sized towns: Lille, Amiens, Caen, Saint-Etienne, Roanne, Besançon, Dijon, Grenoble, Gap, Annecy, Lodève etc.

Tensions in Nantes, Bordeaux and Brest

Some processions counted several thousand people, as in Nantes (6,000 according to the police, 15,000 according to the unions) or Brest (between 5 and 8,000), with some tensions.

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In Nantes, where a large police force had been deployed two days after a violent demonstration, part of the procession went to the hyper center to the song of “Nantes stand up, get up” between Place Royale and Place Graslin, an area usually avoided by protesters.

The tension rose a notch in the middle of the afternoon. The police, targets of bottle throwing, responded by firing tear gas while garbage cans were set on fire on the tram tracks.

In Bordeaux, an improvised procession brought together 1,900 people according to the prefecture, and face-to-face meetings with the police took place on rue Sainte-Catherine, the longest pedestrian street in Europe and very busy on this Saturday. afternoon.

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Thursday, shortly after Elisabeth Borne appealed to Article 49.3 of the Constitution, which allows the adoption of a text without a vote, except for a motion of censure, the inter-union had called for rallies this weekend. And to a 9th day of strikes and demonstrations on March 23.

“The President of the Republic is obviously following the evolution of the situation” on the ground, Emmanuel Macron’s entourage told AFP.

On the strike side, the shutdown of the largest refinery in the country, the Normandy refinery (TotalEnergies), in Seine-Maritime, began Friday evening, told AFP Alexis Antonioli, CGT manager. This operation will take several days and should not cause immediate fuel shortages at gas stations across the country.

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Until now, the strikers had contented themselves with blocking fuel shipments, but the refineries continued to produce.

10,000 tonnes of waste in Paris

Industry Minister Roland Lescure hinted this Saturday that the government would make requisitions in the event of a shutdown. “ We showed in the fall that we knew how to take our responsibilities there again, we will take them.in reference to the requisitions then taken to unblock oil sites during strikes for wages, he declared on France Info.

Such measures are “being deployed” with the Parisian garbage collectors, he added. In the capital, 10,000 tonnes of trash are still piling up on the sidewalks, according to the town hall. She talks about this Saturday “stabilization” the volume of waste not collected in the capital.

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According to the prefecture, “five dump truck garages have resumed activity” And “two treatment concession companies as well as several agents (have) been required since” Friday.

The motions of censure, tabled by the independent group Liot and by elected members of the National Rally (RN), will be debated and put to the vote of the National Assembly on Monday from 4 p.m., a conference of the presidents of the institution which should give little before its final green light to proceed, we learned from parliamentary sources.

The motion tabled by the small group Libertés, Indépendants Outre-mer et Territoires (Liot) is “transpartisan” and co-signed by NUPES elected officials.

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The latter is more likely to be voted by right-wing deputies unfavorable to pension reform than that of the RN. But the absolute majority bar to bring down the government seems difficult to achieve.

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