Paris police have clashed with demonstrators for a third night as thousands of people marched throughout the country amid anger at the government pushing through a rise in the state pension age without a parliamentary vote.
The growing unrest and strikes have left President Emmanuel Macron facing the gravest challenge to his authority since the so-called "Gilets Jaunes" (Yellow Vests) protests four years ago.
"Macron, Resign!" and "Macron is going to break down, we are going to win", demonstrators chanted on Saturday on the Place d'Italie in southern Paris. Riot police used tear gas and clashed with some in the crowd as rubbish bins were set on fire.
Municipal authorities had banned rallies on Paris's central Place de la Concorde and nearby Champ-Elysees on Saturday night after demonstrations that resulted in 61 arrests the previous night. There were 81 arrests on Saturday night.
Earlier in the French capital, a group of students and activists from the "Revolution Permanente" collective briefly invaded the Forum des Halles shopping centre, waving banners calling for a general strike and shouting "Paris stand up, rise up", videos on social media showed.
BFM television also showed images of demonstrations under way 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.
"The reform must be implemented ... Violence cannot be tolerated," Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told Le Parisien newspaper.
A broad alliance of France's main unions has said it will continue to mobilise to try to force a U-turn on the changes. A day of nationwide action is scheduled for Thursday.
Rubbish has been piling up on the streets of Paris after refuse workers joined in the action.
About a third of operational staff at TotalEnergies' refineries and depots were on strike on Saturday, the company said. Rolling strikes continued on the railways.
While eight days of nationwide protests since mid-January, and many local industrial actions, have been largely peaceful, the unrest in the past three days is reminiscent of the Yellow Vest protests that erupted in late 2018 over high fuel prices.
Those demonstrations forced Macron into a partial U-turn on a carbon tax.
Macron's overhaul raises the pension age by two years to 64, which the government says is essential to ensure the system does not go bust.
Australian Associated Press
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