Clashes erupt in France at anti-Macron protests - RTHK
Temperature Humidity
News Archive Can search within past 12 months

Clashes erupt in France at anti-Macron protests

2023-03-29 HKT 01:23
Share this story facebook
  • Clashes erupt in France at anti-Macron protests
New clashes erupted in France on Tuesday between protesters and police as tens of thousands took to the streets to show their anger against President Emmanuel Macron's pension reform which has sparked the biggest domestic crisis of his second mandate.

The day of action is the tenth since protests began in mid-January against the law, which includes raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.

The movement has become a major challenge to Macron who won a second term in elections last year.

Last Thursday saw the most violent clashes yet between protesters and security forces, as tensions erupted into pitched battles on the streets of Paris.

The police have also been accused of using excessive force – both by protesters and rights bodies including the Council of Europe – and this has further fuelled the anger of demonstrators.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said 13,000 members of the security forces were being deployed on Tuesday – 5,500 of them in Paris alone. The number, a record, was justified by "a major risk to public order".

In the western city of Nantes, protesters threw projectiles at security forces who responded with tear gas. A bank branch was set on fire as were rubbish bins around the city court.

Police in Lyon in southeastern France used water cannon and employed tear gas in the northern city of Lille after protesters caused damage including smashing the glass of a bus stop.

In Paris, police fired tear gas and launched a charge after some people at the head of the protest, dressed in black with their faces covered, raided a grocery store and then sparked a fire as the march closed in on Place de la Nation in the east of the city.

At least 22 people were arrested in the capital by the afternoon, Paris police said.

Protesters delayed trains at Gare de Lyon station in Paris, walking on the rails and lighting flares in what they described as a show of solidarity for a railway staffer who lost an eye in a previous protest.

Rubbish collectors in the capital are from Wednesday suspending a three-week strike that has seen thousands of tonnes of garbage accumulate in the French capital, the CGT union said.

But it said this move was to allow coordination with workers "so we can go on strike again even more strongly" as fewer workers were now striking.

Nearly two weeks after Macron forced the new pensions law through parliament using a special provision, unions have vowed no let-up in mass protests to get the government to back down.

A state visit to France by Britain's King Charles III, which had been due to begin on Sunday, was postponed because of the unrest.

Macron on Monday met Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, other cabinet ministers and senior lawmakers for crisis talks at the Elysee Palace.

"We need to continue to hold out a hand to the unions," a participant in the meeting quoted Macron as saying, although the president rejected any revision of the pensions law.

Borne has scheduled talks over three weeks with members of parliament, political parties and local authorities, while still hoping to meet union leaders.

Laurent Berger, the head of the moderate CFDT union, called for the appointment of a mediator between unions and the government as "a gesture in favour of cooling off, and finding a way out".

Hard-left CGT union leader Philippe Martinez said: "The aim is the withdrawal" of the pensions law.

But government spokesman Olivier Veran said the law was no longer up for discussion.

"It's in the past now," he said.

The CGT union said that 450,000 people had taken part in Tuesday's protests in Paris, almost half of the number who it said took part in the capital in a giant protest last Thursday.

Young people were prominent in Tuesday's protests, with many blockading universities and high schools.

Jo Zeguelli, 19, a student at the Sorbonne university in Paris said: "Nothing is changing. Macron does not seem like he is listening to us."

Yasmine Mounib, another 19-year-old student in the northern city of Lille, said she agreed with the protesters.

"But they should keep some trains running for students. This is costing me my education," she said, adding she was going to miss her 8:00 am (0600 GMT) class despite getting up at four.

Mass transit in Paris was heavily affected, with traffic both on metros and suburban trains disrupted.

The Louvre in Paris, the world's most visited museum, was closed on Monday after workers blocked entry. As on previous strike days, the Eiffel Tower in Paris was also shut on Tuesday. (AFP)

Clashes erupt in France at anti-Macron protests