Violent mass protests, disrupted train, air travel ail France amid pension row


Hundreds of thousands took to the streets of France this week as the Emmanuel Macron-led government doubled down on pension reform plans. The agitation began earlier this month after the administration raised the retirement age by two years – forcing it through using a special constitutional measure. The development also comes ahead of King Charles III’s first overseas trip as monarch, slated to begin on Sunday.

Demonstrations in central Paris were generally peaceful, but smaller groups of “Black Bloc” anarchists smashed shop windows, demolished street furniture and ransacked a McDonalds restaurant.

The agitation turned violent in Paris and other cities on Thursday, with police and protesters clashing on the streets of the capital during a major demonstration. Security forces fired teargas and charged crowds with batons while some of the protesters lit fires in the street, setting ablaze pallets and piles of uncollected rubbish, prompting firefighters to intervene.

Violence also marred other marches, notably in the western cities of Nantes, Rennes and Lorient — where an administrative building was attacked and the courtyard of the police station was set afire and its windows broken — and in Lyon, in the southeast.

ALSO READ: French President Emmanuel Macron wants pension plan implemented by end of year

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said 123 police officers had been injured and 80 people arrested across the country.

Thursday’s nationwide protests were the ninth organized by eight unions since January. By government estimates some 1.089 million protesters took part in demonstrations. Meanwhile, the hard-left CGT union claimed that 3.5 million people had marched – including 800,000 in the capital.

The escalating protests have also affected train and air travel in the country. Schools remained shut in some areas, with teachers among the many professions to walk off the job. 

(With inputs from agencies)

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