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For third night, Paris police clash with protesters demanding President Macron resign

French police secure the area near garbage cans on fire during a demonstration to protest the use by French government of the article 49.3, a special clause in the French Constitution, to push the pensions reform bill through the National Assembly without a vote by lawmakers, in Paris, France, March 18, 2023. (Photo by Reuters)

The French police have clashed with protesters rallying for a third straight night in Paris, demanding President Emmanuel Macron resign over controversial pension reforms he assertively champions despite growing public clamor.

"Macron, Resign!" and "Macron is going to break down, we are going to win," demonstrators chanted on the Place d'Italie in southern Paris on Saturday.

The riot police then used tear gas canisters and clashed with protesters as garbage containers were set on fire.

The law enforcement forces also placed as many as 81 people under arrest, after 61 were arrested the previous night.

Earlier in the French capital, a group of students and activists from the "Revolution Permanente" collective briefly invaded the Forum des Halles shopping mall, waving banners, calling for a general strike, and shouting "Paris stand up, rise up," videos on social media showed.

In a bid to control the situation, city authorities had banned rallies on central Place de la Concorde and nearby Champ-Elysees on Saturday night.

Thousands also marched in other cities such as Compiègne in the north, Nantes in the west, and Marseille in the south. In Bordeaux, in the southwest, the police likewise used tear gas to deter protesters who had started a fire.

Through his proposed reforms, Macron is pushing to raise the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64, saying it is vital if the country is to avoid the collapse of the state pension system.

Some 37 percent of operational staff at TotalEnergies' refineries and depots -- at sites including Feyzin in southeast France and Normandy in the north -- were on strike on Saturday, a company spokesperson said, as rolling strikes also continued on the railways.

While eight days of nationwide protests since mid-January, and many local industrial actions, have so far been largely peaceful, the unrest over the last three days has made the analysts draw an analogy with the Yellow Vest protests, which erupted in late 2018 over high fuel prices.Those protests forced Macron into a partial U-turn on a carbon tax.

Likewise, an alliance of France's main trade unions has said it would continue to mobilize its members to force the government make a U-turn on the proposed pension reforms. As such, a day of nationwide industrial action is scheduled for Thursday.

The violent protests came after last Thursday, Macron invoked a controversial executive power to force the pension reforms bill through the parliament, causing outrage among the political class as well as angry protesters in the streets across the nation.

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