French police clash with protesters for third night in Paris

French police clash with protesters for third night in Paris

PARIS, March 18 - Paris police clashed with demonstrators for a third night on Saturday as thousands marched through the country amid anger at the government pushing for a rise in the state pension age without a parliamentary vote.

Since the so-called Gilets Jaunes Yellow Vests protests four years ago, President Emmanuel Macron has faced the biggest challenge to his authority because of the growing unrest and strikes.

Resign! We are going to win, and Macron is going to break down, demonstrators chanted on the Place d Italie in southern Paris. Riot police used tear gas and clashed with some in the crowd as trash bins were set on fire.

On Saturday night, 61 people were arrested after demonstrations on Paris's central Place de la Concorde and nearby Champ-Elysees were suspended after demonstrations that resulted in 61 arrests the previous two nights.

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

BFM television showed images of demonstrations underway in cities such as Compiegne in the north, Nantes in the west and Marseille in the south. In Bordeaux, in the southwest, police also used tear gas against protesters who had started a fire.

Jean-Noel Barrot, Minister for Digital Transition and Telecommunications, told Sud radio that one must respect parliamentary democracy.

A broad alliance of France's main unions said they would continue to mobilise to try to force a U-turn on the changes. A day of nationwide industrial action is scheduled for Thursday.

The streets of Paris have been filled with rubbish after refuse workers joined in the action.

Some 37% of the total energy staff at TotalEnergies TTEF.PA refineries and depots - at sites including Feyzin in southeast France and Normandy in the north -- were on strike on Saturday, a company spokeswoman said. There were rolling strikes on the railways.

The unrest over the last three days is reminiscent of the Yellow Vest protests that erupted in late 2018 over high fuel prices, while eight days of nationwide protests have been largely peaceful since January. Those demonstrations forced Macron into a partial U-turn on a carbon tax.

The government says that the system does not go bust after Macron raises the pension age by two years to 64.