In the most violent demonstration against President Emmanuel Macron’s highly contentious pension reform in three months, protesters and French police officers clashed on Thursday.
According to the authorities, a day of protests turned chaotic in various places, notably Paris, where demonstrators set fires in the city’s historic center, injuring almost 150 police officers and leading to the arrest of dozens of protestors countrywide.
The controversy surrounding the reform’s enactment, which the government decided to execute without legislative approval, has grown into the biggest internal crisis of Macron’s second time in office.
Also, it poses a risk to King Charles III’s upcoming trip to France, which will be his first as the ruler of the United Kingdom. Tuesday, the second full day of his tour, has been designated by unions as the date for more strikes and protests.
The porch of the city hall was briefly set on fire in Bordeaux, a city in the southwest where King Charles is scheduled to arrive on Tuesday.
– Trash set flaming – Macron’s unwillingness to back down on the change in a TV interview on Wednesday gave the protests fresh life and increased their numbers in Paris and other cities compared to earlier protest days.
During a significant protest, police and protesters clashed once more in the capital’s streets. Security personnel used tear gas and charged crowds with batons.
Firefighters had to intervene after some demonstrators set fire to pallets and heaps of uncollected trash in the roadway.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said that across France, 149 members of the security forces had been injured and at least 172 people arrested, including 72 in Paris.
Approximately 140 fires were started in Paris, according to Darmanin, who blamed “thugs” who had come to the city “to have a go at the cops and public buildings” for the violence.
The interior ministry reported that 1.089 million people participated in protests across France, making the turnout in Paris, at 119,000, the biggest in the capital since the movement began in January.
According to government statistics, the total number of participants still fell short of the 1.28 million who participated in the march on March 7.
According to unions, 3.5 million people protested nationwide, with 800,000 doing so in the nation’s capital.
Several hundred radical activists wearing black were shattering windows of banks, stores, and fast-food restaurants in Paris while also destroying street art, as seen by AFP journalists.
The local police chief of Lille, Thierry Courtecuisse, was only slightly hurt by a stone.
A video of a police officer in body armor and a helmet being struck on the head by a stone in Paris went viral. The officer was rendered unconscious and fell to the ground.
Due to strikes by refuse collectors, trash that had gathered in the streets became a target for demonstrators, who set fire to the garbage stacked in the city’s center.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne acknowledged the right to protest and voice one’s disapproval on Twitter, but she said that the violence and devastation seen today were unacceptable.
Unions once more urged nonviolent demonstrations. The moderate CFDT head Laurent Berger remarked, “We need to keep the public on our side to the finish.”
At the Paris Gare de Lyon railway station, protesters briefly occupied the tracks, and some of them blocked traffic to Charles de Gaulle airport.
As a result of a defiant On Wednesday, Macron stated that he was ready to endure criticism for the “essential” pension reform.
Even before that, a poll conducted on Sunday revealed that Macron’s approval rating was at its lowest point since the anti-government “Yellow Vest” protest movement in 2018–2019, at just 28%.
“Excessive force” –
Borne invoked a constitutional provision last week to enact the reform without a vote in parliament, following Macron’s orders. She was subject to two no-confidence votes in parliament, both of which she won—albeit one by a slim margin.
The latest nationwide protests against the pension changes were held on Thursday. They had been planned since mid-January.
As long as oil refinery blocks persist, the supply of kerosene to the nation’s capital and its airports is becoming “critical,” the ministry of energy transition said on Thursday.
Young people have been organizing their nightly rallies across France since the government enacted the measure last Thursday by using encrypted messaging networks.
Many police officers have been accused of using excessive force while making hundreds of arrests.
About “the widespread use of excessive force and arbitrary arrests reported in many media outlets,” Amnesty International has raised alarm.
King Charles is planned to arrive on Sunday and travel to Bordeaux on Tuesday, the new strike date.
According to Bordeaux’s mayor, Pierre Hurmic, the fire that destroyed the enormous wooden door at the city hall’s entry was extinguished after 15 minutes.
Red carpets won’t be laid out for the visit, French public sector unionists have warned, but non-striking workers are anticipated to do so.
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