People walk past uncollected garbages in Paris, Friday March 17, 2023, as sanitation workers are on strike.
An eerie calm, returned to Paris Saturday after two nights of thousands-strong protests across the French capital, with one flash point at the elegant Place de la Concorde where angry protesters tossed an effigy of Macron into a bonfire to cheers from the crowd Friday night.
Police dispersed crowds with tear gas and water cannons and there were hundreds of arrests.
Protesters are trying to pressure lawmakers to bring down Macron’s government and doom the unpopular retirement age increase he’s trying to impose without a vote in the National Assembly.
Further protests were planned Saturday in Paris as well as in the cities of Marseille and Nantes, but they were expected to be smaller than in previous days.
In Paris’ 12th district Saturday, trash piled up meters away from a bakery, wafting fumes encouraged by the mild weather and sunshine. Some Parisian residents buying their weekend baguettes blamed Macron’s administration.
“The government should change its position and listen to the people because what is happening is extremely serious. And we are seeing a radicalization,” said Isabelle Vergriette, 64, a psychologist. “The government is largely responsible for this.”
The district’s mayor, Emmanuelle Pierre-Marie, was out and about from the crack of dawn voicing concern in her neighborhood about the consequences of the refuse pile-up, which has become a visual and olfactory symbol of the anti-pension action.
“Food waste is our priority because it is what brings pests to the surface,” said Pierre-Marie. “We are extremely sensitive to the situation. As soon as we have a dumpster truck available, we give priority to the places most concerned, like food markets.”
Strikes in numerous sectors, from transport to energy, are planned for Monday. The Civil Aviation Authority asked that 30% of flights being canceled at Orly, Paris’ second airport, and 20% in Marseille.
Laurent Berger, head of the moderate CFDT union, said the retirement reform “must be withdrawn.”
“We condemn violence. ... But look at the anger. It’s very strong, even among our ranks,” he said on RMC radio.
On Friday, one day after Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne invoked a special constitutional power to skirt a vote in the chaotic lower chamber, lawmakers on the right and left filed no-confidence motions to be voted on Monday.