France bans protests outside parliament

Lazy eyes listen


French police have banned all gatherings in two protest hotspots across from the parliament in Paris, citing “serious risks of disturbances to public order” in a statement issued on Saturday.

Following two nights of intense public protest against French President Emmanuel Macron’s deeply unpopular decision to implement neoliberal pension reforms without parliamentary approval, the “public thoroughfare in Place de la Concorde and its surroundings” and the area around the Champs d’Elysees were declared off limits.

On Friday, police said 61 demonstrators were arrested after throwing bottles and fireworks at heavily armoured officers who had arrived to disperse the thousands-strong crowd. Police retaliated with tear gas canisters. Another 36 people were arrested in Lyon after allegedly attempting to break into and burn down a town hall.

The reform raises the retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030, and workers must contribute to the system for 43 years before receiving a full pension. Macron has argued that the measure is required to keep the country from falling into an irreversible debt spiral. However, two-thirds of French voters oppose the move, and opposition politicians argue that other options, such as raising taxes on the wealthy, are available to close the fiscal gap.

While the deeply unpopular bill was approved by the Senate earlier this week, Macron rammed it through the National Assembly without a vote, citing Article 49.3 of the French Constitution, which states that a law can be passed if the government is not censured by a majority of MPs. He said there was “too much uncertainty” to put it to a vote.

Unions responded by calling for a protest weekend and a strike day next Thursday, calling Macron’s actions “a complete denial of democracy.”

According to AFP, opposition lawmakers from both the left and right filed no-confidence motions on Friday, which are expected to be debated Monday. However, in order to unseat the government, these would require the support of half of the opposition Republicans, which French media reports is unlikely.

Months of strikes and protests preceded the reform’s passage, echoing the pre-Covid French Yellow Vest movement, a revolt centred on Macron’s controversial neoliberal austerity proposals.