Violence flares as French protesters vent fury at Macron reform

The government said nearly 150 policemen were injured and dozens of protesters arrested across the country, as a day of demonstrations turned chaotic in several cities including Paris, where protesters set fires in the center of the city. historic center of the city.

The uproar over the adoption of the reform – which the government chose to pass without a vote in parliament – has turned into the biggest domestic crisis of Macron’s second term.

It also risks casting a shadow over King Charles III’s visit to France next week, his first foreign state visit as British monarch. Unions announced new strikes and protests on Tuesday, the second day of his trip.

In the southwestern city of Bordeaux, where King Charles is due to visit on Tuesday, the porch of the town hall was briefly burned.

Trash is burned

Numbers in Paris and other cities were higher than on previous days of protests, given new impetus by Macron’s refusal in a television interview on Wednesday to withdraw the reforms.

Police and protesters clashed again on the streets of the capital in a massive demonstration, with security forces firing tear gas and attacking crowds with batons.

Some protesters set fires in the streets, burning pallets and piles of uncollected garbage, prompting firefighters to intervene, AFP correspondents say.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said that across France, 149 members of the security forces had been injured and at least 172 arrested, including 72 in Paris.

Darmanin said about 140 fires broke out in Paris, blaming “thugs” for the violence, who had come to Paris “to inspect the police and public buildings”.

The Interior Ministry said some 1,089 million protesters had joined rallies across France, bringing voter turnout in Paris to 119,000, the highest in the capital since the movement began in May. January.

The nationwide figure is still less than the 1.28 million people who marched on March 7, according to government figures.

Unions claim a record 3.5 million people protested across France and 800,000 in the capital.

– ‘Until the end’ –

In Paris, hundreds of radical protesters dressed in black smashed the windows of banks, shops and fast food joints, and destroyed street furniture, AFP journalists witnessed.

In the northeastern city of Lille, local police chief Thierry Courtecuisse was slightly injured by a rock.

In Paris, a video went viral online of a police officer wearing a helmet and armor being knocked unconscious and falling to the ground after being hit in the head by a rock.

Garbage accumulated on the streets due to strikes by garbage collectors has become an attractive target, with protesters burning rubbish piled up in the city center.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne wrote on Twitter: “It is our right to protest and express our dissent, but added: “The violence and destruction we witness today is unacceptable. .”

Unions again called for peaceful protests. Laurent Berger, leader of the dovish CFDT, said: “We need to keep the public opinion to the end.

Protesters quickly seized the tracks at the Gare de Lyon train station in Paris, and some blocked the entrance to Charles de Gaulle airport.

Anger ran high after Macron defiantly announced on Wednesday that he was willing to accept unpopularity over pension reform he said was “necessary”.

Even before that, a survey on Sunday showed Macron’s personal approval rating at just 28%, the lowest since the anti-government “Yellow Vest” protest movement in 2018-2019.


Following Macron’s directive, Borne last week invoked a constitutional provision to pass reforms without a vote in parliament. That sparked two motions of no-confidence in parliament, which she survived – but one of them by a narrow margin.

Thursday’s protests are the latest in a series of nationwide strikes that began in mid-January to protest changes to pensions.

The energy converter on Thursday warned that the supply of kerosene to the capital and its airports was becoming “critical” as refineries continued to be congested.

Since the government imposed the reforms last Thursday, nightly protests have taken place across France, with young people coordinating their actions on encrypted messaging services.

There have been hundreds of arrests and accusations of police using heavy-handed tactics.

Amnesty International has expressed alarm “at the widespread use of excessive force and arbitrary arrests reported in some media”.

King Charles will arrive on Sunday, with a trip scheduled for a new strike day on Tuesday to Bordeaux.

Mayor Pierre Hurmic said the fire at the entrance to the town hall in Bordeaux damaged a large wooden door and was extinguished after 15 minutes.

French public sector union members have warned that they will not roll out the red carpet during the visit, but workers who are not on strike are expected to roll out the red carpet.

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