Public rallies banned in Paris following two days of clashes with police

Public rallies banned in Paris following two days of clashes with police
Credit: Belga

Gatherings on the Place de la Concorde and the Champs-Elysées were banned on Saturday by the Paris police prefecture following two nights of violent demonstrations, the Belga News Agency reports.

Since Thursday, protestors have taken to the streets following the French government's use of the 49.3 law to force through a controversial pension reform by executive order. Ensuing clashes with protesting French citizens have led to the Parisian police announcing on Saturday afternoon that public gatherings and rallies were banned, with immediate effect.

"Because of serious risks of disturbance to public order and security...any gathering on the public highway at the Place de la Concorde and its surroundings as well as in the area of the Champs-Élysées avenue is prohibited," the prefecture told AFP.

"The people who will try to gather there will be systematically removed by law enforcement and could face a fine," they added.

The demonstrations that took place on Thursday and Friday night at the Place de la Concorde, a few hundred meters from the National Assembly, were marred by violence.

Hundreds of people clashed with the police in small groups. A blaze was lit by demonstrators who clashed with police with bottles and fireworks. The atmosphere grew more tense as the night went on. Police tried to clear the square in the rain by deploying tear gas and leading charges the crowd, according to AFP reporters.

Credit: Belga

On Friday, of the 4,000 people who gathered in the square, 61 were arrested, according to the Paris police prefecture. On Thursday, 10,000 people had gathered there and 258 people were arrested.

Revolting pensions

France has been plunged into a political crisis after forcing through its pension reform by executive order, which amplified public outrage and triggered demonstrations across France.

In Lyon, protesters broke into a district town hall and "tried to set it on fire", but police quickly extinguished the blaze and arrested six people, the prefecture said.

In the same city, a few hundred young people set fire to bins, overturned scooters, smashed advertising hoardings, threw firecrackers and tagged shop windows, chanting: "Whose is it? Whose is it? It's ours!", according to an AFP journalist on the scene. The police retaliated with tear gas. The tensions in the city centre led to 36 arrests, according to the local prefecture.

Credit: Belga

In Strasbourg, 1,600 protesters gathered on Place Kléber. "We're going to go by force too," chanted the demonstrators. The prefecture reported "damage" in the city centre, but no arrests.

A thousand people marched in the centre of Lille, and a procession of a few hundred was dispersed without incident in Bordeaux.

No confidence votes looming for Macron

A no-confidence vote is expected to be discussed in the National Assembly on Monday from 16:00, parliamentary sources said, subject to validation just before the session.

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To bring down the government, a no-confidence vote would need to garner an absolute majority in the assembly, or 287 votes. This would notably require around 30 right-wing Les Républicains MPs (out of 61) to vote for the motion.

The French government has chosen to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 in response to a financial deterioration in pension funds and an ageing population. France is one of the European countries with the lowest legal retirement age, even if all pension systems are not easily comparable.

The measure to raise the legal retirement age is fomenting public anger. Opinion polls show that the majority of French people are against it, even if the number of demonstrators in the streets and strikers has declined over time.

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