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Mostly Calm on Paris Streets, Garbage Still Piling Up

PARIS (AP) — A spattering of protests were planned in France over the weekend against President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial pension reform, as garbage continued to reek in the streets of Paris and beyond amid a strike by refuse collectors.

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. Police dispersed people 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 an 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.

A woman holds a placard depicting French President Emmanuel Macron sitting on garbage cans that reads, “king of trash” during a protest in Paris, Friday, March 17, 2023. Protests against French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to force a bill raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 through parliament without a vote disrupted traffic, garbage collection and university campuses in Paris as opponents of the change maintained their resolve to get the government to back down. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly)

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 baguette 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.”

Demonstrators rolls a wooden cable spool to a burning barricade during a protest in Paris, Friday, March 17, 2023. Protests against French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to force a bill raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 through parliament without a vote disrupted traffic, garbage collection and university campuses in Paris as opponents of the change maintained their resolve to get the government to back down. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly)

Strikes in numerous sectors, from transport to energy, are planned for Monday. The Civil Aviation authority asked that 30% of flights be 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.

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