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#AceBreakingNews – Heaps, mounds and piles of garbage are growing daily in Paris and, in some places, it stands higher than a human.
A strike by Paris garbage collectors — which reached its 16th day on Tuesday — is taking a toll on the renowned aesthetics of the French capital.
“I prefer Chanel to the stink,” joked Vincent Salazar, a 62-year-old artistic consultant who lives in a Left Bank neighbourhood.
A pile of garbage sits at the corner of his building overlooking the Luxembourg Gardens.
“I’ve seen rats,” he said.
However, like many nonchalant and strike-hardened Parisians, Mr Salazar does not mind.
“I’m fortunate to live here, but I’m 200 per cent behind these guys,” he said.
“They should get early retirement.”
Mr Salazar is among the majority of French who, polls show, oppose President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to raise the retirement age by two years, from 62 to 64 for most and from 57 to 59 for garbage collectors.
Mr Macron rammed the showcase legislation of his second term through parliament last week — without a vote, thanks to a special constitutional article.Garbage is piled up on the streets, including near the Arc de Triomphe.(AP Photo: Thomas Padilla)none
On Monday, the government won two no-confidence motions put forth by angry lawmakers. The bill is now considered adopted.
However, garbage got wrapped up in the politics and neither unions organising protests nor some citizens are prepared to back down.
Posters showing a digitally altered image of Mr Macron atop a garbage heap — or collecting garbage himself — have made the rounds on social media.
The socialist mayor of Paris, who supports the strikers, has found herself in a bind.
City Hall refused orders to get the trucks out, saying it was not their job.
The police prefecture then ordered garages unblocked. Using private companies, garbage has been collected in “highly impacted” districts, City Hall said.
There are problems dumping the garbage in blocked incinerator plants.
Still, City Hall said that, as of Monday, 9,300 tonnes of rubbish remained on the streets, down from 10,000 tonnes days ago.
Workers in numerous sectors, from transportation to energy, have been holding intermittent strikes since January.Uncollected garbage is piled up on a street in Paris, during the ongoing strike by garbage collectors.(AP Photo: Thomas Padilla)none
However, it is the garbage in the French capital that has made garbage collectors, long taken for granted, visible — and their anger obvious.
Some of Paris’s fabled, narrow streets — challenging to negotiate on regular days — are even more choked than usual, forcing people on foot to pass through garbage heaps single file.
The scent of rancid, rotting garbage increasingly wafts through the air as spring arrives and the weather grows milder.
Seats at some cafes near the heaps of rubbish are empty.
A waiter for the past 26 years at Le Bistro du Dome, adjacent to the famed restaurant Le Dome, said some 50 per cent of diners had disappeared in the past 10 days.
“It doesn’t bother me, because it’s for a good cause,” said Franck Jacquot, 51, standing outside a small bar he runs.Locals say they support the workers and will withstand the rubbish if it stops the plan to raise the retirement age.(AP Photo: Michel Euler)none
Nearby, heaps of garbage loomed.
“If we’re obliged to go this route — well, we’re here,” he said.
Two spontaneous protests last week at the Place de la Concorde, facing the National Assembly, degenerated when police started evacuating thousands with tear gas and water cannon.
Some of those forced out began setting fires to garbage piles along their path through high-end Paris.
On Monday, hundreds of young people demonstrated near the gold-domed Invalides monument, site of Napoleon’s tomb, as security forces watched.
A union van had blasted proceedings at the National Assembly with a loudspeaker.
Unions are planning nationwide marches and strikes for Thursday to pressure the government to withdraw the retirement measure.
Garbage bags and bins have served as fuel for troublemakers, who combed Paris on Monday night, setting fires, as they’ve done after recent protests that resulted in at least 100 people being detained.Piles of uncollected garbage is set on fire by protesters after a demonstration near the Place de la Concorde. (AP Photo: Lewis Joly)none
“Garbage is a good way to protest. It has a big impact,” said Tony Gibierge, 36, who is opening a restaurant in several months on a street in southern Paris — a street currently heaped with garbage.
He was among those who have peacefully demonstrated through Paris, and other cities, with song and dance in recent weeks.
“Now we have to send out the fire, stop dancing,” he said.
The message: Nothing is over, and much of the garbage is not going anywhere quite yet.
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