Over 1 million protest against new retirement age in France
More than 1 million people took to the streets across France on Thursday in protest of President Macron’s unpopular retirement reform.
Nearly 120,000 protested in Paris alone, the largest crowd since the protests began earlier this year.
Most French people oppose raising the retirement age, polls show, but Macron has repeatedly said it was necessary to keep the nationwide pension program solvent. Last week, the measure — which raises the age from 62 to 64 — was pushed through using a special constitutional provision and without legislation, leading to another round of demonstrations.
The nationwide turnout for the marches and strikes had union leaders calling for new actions next Tuesday to coincide with King Charles of England’s visit to France.
“While the [president] tries to turn the page, this social and union movement … confirms the determination of the world of workers and youth to obtain the withdrawal of the reform,” eight unions organizing protests said in a statement.
In Paris and elsewhere, protesters set fires and clashed with police while blockading train stations, Charles de Gaulle Airport, industrial areas and ports. Popular tourist destinations like the Eiffel Tower and Versailles Palace were closed because of the strikes. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd near Place de l’Opera after a march ended.
Buildings for local governments and police in Nantes, Rennes, Lyon and Lorient were also damaged during Thursday’s actions.
The government maintained that the British king’s visit would go on as planned.
“There are troublemakers, often extreme left, who want to take down the state and kill police and ultimately take over the institutions,” Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said while visiting Paris police headquarters.
The continued protests came days after Macron survived a no-confidence vote that would have led to both the policy’s reversal and Macron’s resignation if it were successful.
Macron said the new retirement policy would go into effect by the end of the year.
The demonstrations showed no sign of slowing, though.
“This year perhaps maybe our holidays won’t be so great,” said Maxime Monin, a 46-year-old striking public transportation worker. “But I think it’s worth the sacrifice.”