Massive protests marched through the streets of Paris on Sunday to voice discontent over the rising cost of living. It comes as France’s largest trade union continues a refinery strike that has closed gas stations across the country.
Organizers of the march claim that 140,000 people joined the march, French broadcaster BFMTV reported. According to Paris police, only 30,000 attended the march.
The protest was organized by Jean-Luc Melenchon, a former presidential candidate and leader of the left-wing France Unbowed (LFI) party. A number of other leftist parties and organizations including Europe Ecology – The Greens and the Socialist Party, along with several French unions and associations joined the protest movement. The protesters called on French President Emmanuel Macron to take stronger action against climate change.
Clashes between far-left radicals – a regular fixture at French protests – and police officers were reported, with riot police firing tear gas to subdue the black-clad rioters.
The march began with a walkout from the Place de la Nation square and was controlled by police cordons.
The activists demand higher wages and social benefits, windfall taxes on energy companies, capping electricity bills and investment in ecological projects. Calls against soaring fuel and food prices, and the controversial pension reform could also be heard at the march.
“We are here to save the French from poverty. Macron is trying to destroy our country. He is trying to destroy all public goods. It is obvious to us that from November the prices of all fuel, gasoline and diesel will exceed 3 euros, so we have to act. Otherwise we will soon have nothing to eat this winter,” one of the activists of the Yellow Vests movement told.
Some participants shared their resentment over France’s increased military support to Ukraine.
“Not only has France supplied Kiev with Caesar howitzers, but it also invites the French to train Ukrainian soldiers. This is too much, this is outrageous. The United States is trying to drag us into a war that is not even ours,” another protester said.
The demonstration was controlled by police cordons, with protesters marching peacefully until radical youth from the black bloc movement joined the procession. Aggressive youths were provoking law enforcement by throwing bottles and smoke pellets. The police fired tear gas in response.
Other radical black bloc youths began to smash the windows of banks and snatched phones from journalists to prevent them from recording their actions.
Economic concerns are first and foremost on the minds of protesters. “It is not the march of Mr. Melenchon,” the LFI leader told France 3 TV on Sunday morning. “It is a march of the people who are hungry, who are cold and who want to be better paid.”
“The rise in prices is unbearable,” LFI deputy Manon Aubry told AFP. “It is the greatest loss of purchasing power in 40 years.”
Inflation rate in France currently stands at 6%, while almost all of the country’s industrial sectors have reported a drop in activity due to rising energy costs, largely a result of the EU’s sanctioning of Russian fossil fuels following the launch of Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine.
With household energy bills soaring, firewood is once again in demand in France, and power outages have been forecast.
Strikes At Oil Refineries
Amid the protests, France’s CGT trade union is continuing strikes at oil refineries, demanding pay rises for workers. The strikes, which have been ongoing for three weeks, have caused shortages and rationing at gas stations. GCT said on Saturday that it rejected a pay offer from oil giant TotalEnergies.
On October 8, thousands of protesters gathered in Paris, demanding Macron’s resignation.
France remains gripped by widespread protest movement amid the ongoing cost-of-living crisis. The leading French unions announced on Thursday that they were going to hold a nationwide strike on October 18, demanding higher wages and protesting against the government’s interference in the social movement of oil employees and encroachment on the right to strike.
Cremation In France Now Less Affordable
An earlier report said:
The costs of cremation in France are forecast to soar by as much as 35% in the space of two years, according to the latest data from funeral-cost tracking service MPF, as cited by TV channel TF1.
The surge is attributed to energy prices, particularly prices for gas, which have been rallying over the past year amid Ukraine-related sanctions imposed by the EU on Russia, one of the bloc’s major energy partners.
The cost of gas reportedly accounts for up to 20% of the price of a funeral that involves cremation, which is expected to increase to €911 ($887) from €675, the average price before energy shortages became a problem.
Cremation has until recently been a cheaper alternative to burial, but funeral firms, which are not eligible for energy subsidies, are expected to easily pass the soaring bills on to the bereaved.
“If the prices increase too much, it may become unaffordable for families to pay,” Frederique Plaisant, president of the French Federation of Cremation told the media, adding that an increasing number of French opting for burial could pose problems of space in cemeteries.
Cremation reportedly accounts for more than 40% of funerals in France.
“There is real concern on the subject in the sector,” Antony Fallourd, general manager of the Funéplus funeral service, who fears that a sharp rise in prices will reinforce the bad image of certain funeral establishments, sometimes considered as “death profiteers.”
German Crematorium’s Plan
An earlier media report said:
Skyrocketing gas prices have forced Germany’s largest crematorium to switch to a 24/7 work schedule, its management has said.
The head of Rhein-Taunus-Krematorium in Dachsenhausen, Karl-Heinz Konsgen, told Bild on Monday that his establishment has come up with a new way to “cope without gas during cremations.”
The facility, which is located in the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate, found that heating up its eight furnaces every day had become too expensive due to a spike in gas prices caused by EU sanctions on Russia and fears that Moscow could cut its reduced supply altogether.
“In addition to the price increase of 600%, the announcement of the alert phase of the gas emergency plan by the state economy minister is causing uncertainty for us,” Konsgen explained.
The crematorium, which burns the remains of almost 35,000 people per year, heated up its furnaces in early August for what appears to have been the last time. Since then, they have been kept at 800 degrees Celsius, so the establishment no longer has to worry about gas bills.
The move has meant that staff now also have to work nights and weekends. But, according to Konsgen, this wasn’t a problem for them. “Our employees have understood this and accepted the new working hours,” the undertaker said.
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck triggered the second “alert level” of the country’s three-stage gas emergency gas plan in late June over fears that significant energy shortages could occur in winter.
The move requires all market players to use gas more efficiently and look for alternative sources of supply. State interference and gas rationing will only be triggered if the final “emergency phase” of the plan is initiated.
Heating: Millions of Germans Will Not Be Able To Pay
At least a third of Germans on low incomes may not be able to pay increasingly high energy bills, the German Tenants’ Association (DMB) has warned, urging the government to make changes to housing programs.
“That is a hell of a lot of people,” Lukas Siebenkotten, the DMB’s chief, told newspaper Der Tagesspiegel on Sunday. “We are talking about millions here.”
Siebenkotten urged the government to allow more people to claim housing benefits in the wake of rising energy prices. “Tenants must also be protected from the termination of contracts if they cannot make increased advance payments,” he said.
The remarks came after Klaus Mueller, the head of the Federal Network Agency, Germany’s gas regulator, warned that consumers should conserve at least 20% of gas in order to avoid shortages during the winter.
High inflation and increased energy costs in Germany have been exacerbated by fears that Russia might completely cut off supplies of natural gas to the country. Germany and other EU states imposed sweeping sanctions on Moscow in response to its military campaign in Ukraine and unveiled a plan to phase out Russian gas.
However, the German government has repeatedly warned that an immediate end of supplies from Moscow would badly damage the economy, increase unemployment and lower living standards.
Berlin rolled out a gas-saving plan late last month, which includes boosting reserves in gas storage facilities and using more coal power plants.