One million march as unions call new pension protests
French unions called for new nationwide protests next week, which will coincide with King Charles III’s planned visit to France, after more than one million people demonstrated throughout the country Thursday against unpopular pension reforms.
The Interior Ministry said the march in Paris, which was marred by violence, drew 119,000 people which was a record for the capital during the pension protests. Polls show that most French oppose President Emmanuel Macron’s bill to increase the retirement age from 62 to 64, which he says is necessary to keep the system afloat.
Building on the strong turnout, unions swiftly called for new protests and strikes on March 28, when the British king is scheduled to visit Bordeaux.
Nationwide, more than a million people joined protest marches held in cities and towns around the country Thursday, the ministry said.
The marches were held a day after Macron further angered his critics by standing strong on the retirement bill that his government forced through parliament without a vote.
Strikes upended travel as protesters blockaded train stations, Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, refineries and ports.
In Paris, street battles between police and black-clad, masked groups who attacked at least two fast food restaurants, a supermarket and a bank reflected intensifying violence and drew attention away from the tens of thousands of peaceful marchers.
Police, pelted by objects and fireworks, charged multiple times and used teargas to disperse rioters. A haze of teargas fumes covered part of the Place de l’Opera, where demonstrators converged at the march’s end. Police estimated the “radical elements” at some 1,000 people.
Amid the chaos, one police officer was seen falling to the ground with his shield. Colleagues dragged him to safety. Police said he was being treated but didn’t elaborate or say whether there were other injuries.
Thursday’s nationwide protests were the ninth organized by eight unions since January, when opponents still hoped that parliament would reject Macron’s measure to raise the retirement age. But the government forced it through using a special constitutional measure.