Posted: 22.03.2023 17:11:00

Batons and tear gas for pensioners

Protests rage after the French leader bypassed opposition and used a special constitutional power to raise the retirement age

Protesters and police in the French capital have clashed for several nights as thousands took to the streets across the country and workers at refineries went on strike to oppose the government’s decision to raise the state pension age without a parliamentary vote.
The growing unrest, combined with rubbish piling up on the streets of Paris after refuse workers joined in the action, has left President Emmanuel Macron with the gravest challenge to his authority since the so-called ‘Yellow Vests’ protests, which began in late 2018. Macron’s popularity continues to tank amid pension reform push, falling to as low as 28 percent, shows the monthly poll by the Ifop Polling Institute.
‘Macron, Resign!’ and ‘Macron is going to break down, we are going to win’, demonstrators chanted on the Place d’Italie in southern Paris.
Riot police used tear gas and clashed with some in the crowd as rubbish bins were set on fire. Industrial action has halted rubbish collection in much of Paris, with around 10,000 tonnes of waste now on the streets as the government forces some binmen back to work.
A group of students and activists from the Permanent Revolution Collective briefly invaded the Forum des Halles shopping mall in the French capital, waving banners calling for a general strike and shouting, ‘Paris, stand up! Rise up!’, videos on social media showed.
People marched in towns and cities around the country after regional unions called for a weekend of protests.
BFM television also showed images of demonstrations under way in cities such as Compiegne in the north, Nantes in the west and Marseille in the south. In Bordeaux, in the southwest, police also used tear gas against protesters who had started a fire.
Ariane Laget, 36, was among about 200 people demonstrating in the small southern town of Lodeve. “We’re fed up. We feel like we’re being trampled on and no one is listening,” she told the AFP news agency.
A broad alliance of France’s main unions has said it would continue to mobilise to try to force a U-turn on the pension changes. Rolling strikes also continued on the railways.

Macron’s overhaul raises the pension age by two years to 64, which the government says is essential to ensure the system does not go bust.
But critics say the changes are unfair for people who start working at a young age in physically tough jobs and women who interrupt their careers to raise children.
Laurent Berger, head of the moderate CFDT union, said the retirement reform ‘must be withdrawn’. “We condemn violence. … But look at the anger. It’s very strong, even among our ranks,” he said on RMC radio.

Based on the materials
Photos by REUTERS