Anger is Growing’: More than 1 Million Take to Streets in France Protesting Pension Reforms

FRANCE: More than a million people took to the streets in cities across France, in protest against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms. As the nationwide protests entered the ninth day, water cannon were fired in Rennes, tear gas was used in Nantes, a police station was attacked in Brittany amongst other acts the protestors touted to. The demonstrations in central Paris were generally peaceful, but tensions ran high in Bordeaux and Lyon.

Shocking Images of the protest emerged. Injured police officers are seen being dragged to safety against a chaotic background of people running for life amidst tear gas firing. France’s Minister of the Interior, Gerald Darmanin, has revealed 123 police officers have been injured across the country. In a tweet, he also said more than 80 people had been arrested in the wake of today’s protests. Videos of the Bordeaux’s town hall being set ablaze also surfaced. So far there are no reports on who is responsible for the conflagration.

Up to 1.08m people took part across France, with 119,000 in Paris, according to figures from the interior ministry.

Labour unions warned that the protests could turn more violent if the government does not heed the growing anger over the pension reform. New nationwide strikes and protests have been called on March 28, the day Britain’s King Charles III is due to travel to Bordeaux from Paris by train.

The protests, which have been going on since January, took a violent turn after the government’s decision last week to push the pension changes through parliament without a vote.

The French president is facing his biggest ever domestic political crisis during his second term. A protest movement and on-off strikes against his unpopular pensions changes – at one point getting 1.28 million people out to protest in the street have persisted for two months.

On January 10th Elisabeth Borne, the prime minister, unveiled the details of changes to the country’s mandatory pension rules. The centrepiece is a raising of the legal minimum retirement age from 62 to 64, by 2030. Ms Borne’s package includes an increase of €100 ($107) a month to €1,200 for the minimum state pension, which is paid to those who have made the required contributions over a lifetime.

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