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In France, more than a million people protest pension reform

  • More than 250 protests were organised across the country and union leaders praised the “significant” mobilisation
  • Strikes upended travel as protesters blockaded train stations, Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, refineries and ports
  • Police, pelted by objects and fireworks, charged multiple times and used tear gas to disperse rioters

24 Mar 2023
In France, more than a million people protest pension reform

On Thursday, more than a million people protested President Emmanuel Macron's contentious proposal to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 across France. The protestors reportedly packed the streets of Paris and other French cities, and numerous marches were marred by violence, according to the French police.

Union leaders welcomed the "substantial" mobilization, which resulted in more than 250 protests being planned around the nation. As violence marred several marches, protesters flooded the streets of Paris and other French cities on Thursday, a day after President Emmanuel Macron further infuriated his detractors by refusing to back down on a bill raising the retirement age that his government rammed through parliament without a vote.

Travel was disrupted by strikes as demonstrators surrounded ports, refineries, and Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. In Paris, clashes between police and groups wearing black and masks that attacked at least two fast food establishments, a supermarket, and a bank served as a reflection of the violence's escalation and diverted attention from the tens of thousands of nonviolent demonstrators.

Officers charged repeatedly and fired tear gas to disperse the protestors after being attacked with objects and pyrotechnics. At the conclusion of the march, protesters gathered on the Place de l'Opera, which was partially obscured by a tear gas haze. The "radical elements," according to the police, number around 1,000 persons.

 The statewide demonstrations were the ninth to be planned by eight unions since January, when opponents of Macron's proposal to raise the retirement age by two years, to 64, still held out hope that parliament would reject the proposal. Public transportation networks in other significant cities, the Paris metro, and high-speed and regional trains were all affected.

In Paris Orly Airport, almost 30% of scheduled flights were canceled. The strikes on Thursday caused the Versailles Palace and the Eiffel Tower to be closed. To slow down traffic near major cities, protesters erected blockades on major motorways and interchanges. In contrast to the mainly peaceful huge union-organized rallies, violence has increased in recent days at tiny, dispersed protests against the pension change and Macron's leadership.

Officials anticipated increased violence Gerald Darmanin, the interior minister, had announced on Thursday that 12,000 security personnel, including 5,000 in Paris, would be on French streets. King Charles III's first abroad journey as the monarch, which is set for next week, could be marred by social upheaval in France, as strikers are refusing to supply red carpets and uncollected trash is accumulating in the streets of Paris. On Wednesday, Macron reiterated that the government's measure to raise the retirement age must be put into effect by the year's end.

Several hundred strikers wielding flares and yelling "Macron, get away" marched on the rails of the Gare de Lyon train station in Paris to stop trains from moving. They were carrying flares. Maxime Monin, 46, who works in public transportation, expressed concern that his family's holidays this year could not be as enjoyable. He emphasized that on strike days, workers like him do not receive pay. Yet he believe the price was worthwhile.

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