Protests in France
A 50-year-old woman was arrested in France after referring to French President Emmanuel Macron as “garbage” in a Facebook post. The woman, named Valerie, is facing a criminal trial for publicly insulting the French leader over his decision to force a pension reform.
The woman, from Sain-Omer, near the northern English Channel, posted a picture of graffiti saying “Macron Garbage” on the social media platform.
Three police officers later knocked on her door to arrest her.
Speaking to Voix du Nord, she said: “I asked them if it was a joke. It’s the first time I’ve been arrested.”
She added: “I’m an activist for social justice.
“They want to make an example of me. I am not public enemy number one.
“This is totally unfair. We are going through a period when intimidation is strong, and activists are threatened.”
It comes as striking sanitation workers in Paris began returning to work Wednesday, ending one of the most enduring symbols of opposition to French President Emmanuel Marcon’s unpopular pension bill, as nationwide protests also appeared to be winding down.
Awaiting clean-up crews were heaps of trash that had piled up over their weekslong strike beginning March 6, as well as debris from the streets following the tenth nationwide anti-pension reform protests a day earlier.
Trash mounds that reached up to 10,000 tons along the French capital’s streets — matching the weight of the Eiffel Tower — have become a striking visual and olfactory symbol of opposition to Marcon’s plan to raise the retirement age by two years. For most people that means working until 64 once the measure, under examination by the Constitutional Council, is enshrined in law.
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Sanitation workers, who had blocked three incinerator plants and garbage truck depots, retire earlier than most people, at age 57 due to their laborious jobs, though many work longer to increase their pension. The new plan would push their retirement age to 59.
Numerous strikers had cited health concerns if they were made to work longer.
In a decision that sent waves of relief among many Paris residents, the powerful CGT union representing sanitation workers announced that the three-week-long strike would be “suspended” as of Wednesday. Crews will join others who were legally requisitioned over the last week to help with the daunting clean-up process.
A statement by the CGT claimed that requisitions of trucks, incinerators and personnel, ordered by the Paris police prefect, had bled the movement, leading to its suspension. But added that “the combat isn’t over.”
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The suspension of the strike, together with the dwindling protest numbers, is seen by some as the beginning of the end of demonstrations against the pension bill.
Tuesday’s protests in Paris saw dozens of arrests and flare ups of violence, though significantly fewer people participated in the action nationwide.
The Interior Ministry put the number of demonstrators nationwide at 740,000, down from more than 1 million five days ago when protesters voiced their rage at Macron’s order to ram the bill through parliament without a vote.
For unions, the fight against the law is far from over. An eleventh day of action is scheduled for April 6.
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