Opponents of the pension reform used the weekend of Saturday March 18 and Sunday March 19 to express their anger in rallies across France, after Thursday’s activation of 49.3 and before Monday’s debate on censure motions .
On Saturday, the Paris police headquarters announced that all gatherings were prohibited on Place de la Concorde, located a few hundred meters from the National Assembly and the Elysee Palace, a rallying point for opponents of the reform on Thursday and Friday evening. On Friday, violent clashes occurred there, with 61 arrests. The Place de la Concorde was placed under the very high surveillance of hundreds of police officers, and water cannons were prepositioned there. The police carried out numerous searches of passers-by and asked people to circulate.
In the south of the capital, CGT Île-de-France organized a rally in Place d’Italie, which turned into a procession and went up to the north of the capital. Clashes with the police broke out at the end of the evening, with throwing of projectiles, trash fires and barricades. According to a police source, 81 people were arrested in and around Place d’Italie, where calm returned around 10:30 p.m.
Several thousand demonstrators in the cities of France
Gatherings were held all over the country, in Lille, Amiens, Caen, Grenoble, or Dijon. A few hundred demonstrators marched in Marseille. Some processions counted several thousand people, as in Nantes (6,000 according to the police, 15,000 according to the unions) or Brest (between 5,000 and 8,000), with some tensions. In Bordeaux, an improvised procession brought together 1,900 people according to the prefecture. In Lyon, the prefecture announced on Twitter the arrest of 15 people after incidents caused by “groups of violent individuals” near Place Bellecour.
Thursday, shortly after Elisabeth Borne appealed to Article 49.3 of the Constitution, 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, said the entourage of Emmanuel Macron.
On the strike side, the shutdown of the largest refinery in the country, the Normandy refinery (TotalEnergies), in Seine-Maritime, began Friday evening, said Alexis Antonioli, CGT manager. This operation will take several days and should not cause immediate fuel shortages at gas stations across the country. Until now, the strikers had contented themselves with blocking fuel shipments, but the refineries continued to produce.