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.
Strikes disrupted travel as demonstrators surrounded ports, refineries, and Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. Union leaders welcomed the “substantial” mobilization, which resulted in more than 250 protests being planned around the nation.
The clashes between police and the black-clad, masked groups that attacked at least two fast food outlets, a supermarket, and a bank in Paris underlined the violence’s escalation and diverted focus from the tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators.
After being attacked by objects and fireworks, police repeatedly charged and fired tear gas to disperse the rioters. The Place de l’Opera, where protesters gathered after the march, was partially obscured by a tear gas haze. Authorities put the number of “radical elements” at 1,000.
Amid the mayhem, a police officer was seen tumbling to the ground while holding his shield. His coworkers carried him to safety. Authorities stated that he was receiving treatment but provided no further information or mention of additional injuries.
Other marches were also marred by violence, particularly in Lyon in the southeast and the western cities of Nantes, Rennes, and Lorient, where an administrative building was stormed, and the police station’s courtyard was set ablaze and its windows destroyed.
The statewide demonstrations on Thursday 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 hoped that parliament would reject the bid. Yet, the administration used a particular constitutional provision to force it through.
In a French interview on Wednesday, Macron remained steadfast in his belief that new legislation is required to maintain retirement funds.
Other suggestions made by opponents included raising taxes on the affluent or businesses, which according to Macron, would harm the economy.
The proposal now has to be approved by the Constitutional Council. Yet the opposition won’t give up.
The moderate CFDT labor union chief, Laurent Berger, told The Associated Press, “We are trying to say before the law is passed… that we have to find a way out and continue to maintain that the way out is the withdrawal of the law.”
Public transportation networks in other significant cities, the Paris metro, and high-speed and regional trains were all affected. At 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 significant cities, protesters erect blockades on major motorways and interchanges.
In contrast to the mainly peaceful massive union-organized rallies, violence has recently increased at small, dispersed protests against the pension change and Macron’s leadership.
Officials anticipated further violence on Thursday, and Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin had stated 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 implemented by year’s end.
JUST IN: Stunning video emerges of what appears to be FIREFIGHTERS JOINING THE PROTESTS in Paris — The large group of protesters are purportedly headed to the center of the city..
— Chuck Callesto (@ChuckCallesto) March 23, 2023