News   /   France

Police, protesters clash across France as anger at Macron mounts

Protesters walk next to a damaged and burning road sign gantry at the entrance of the Saint-Nazaire bridge, western France, on March 22, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

Protesters angry with President Emmanuel Macron have clashed with police in a day of demonstrations across France in the latest spate of unrest.

Police fired tear gas and used water cannon against protesters, including in the western city of Nantes and in Rennes.

In the west in Lorient, projectiles triggered a brief fire in the yard of a police station.

Protesters blocked access to Roissy-Charles De Gaulle airport outside Paris. Near Toulouse in the southwest,
burning piles of debris blocked traffic on a highway and sent plumes of smoke into the sky.

"There is a lot of anger, an explosive situation," CGT union leader Philippe Martinez said at the start of a rally in Paris. 

Union leaders called for calm but were angry with what they called Macron's "provocative" comments. 

Protesters were further angered by the government's decision last week to push the pension changes through parliament without a vote.  

Opinion polls have long shown that a majority of voters were opposed to delaying retirement age by two years to 64. 

On Wednesday, Macron rejected calls to stop pushing through his deeply unpopular pension plan. He insisted that the new law was necessary and would come into force later this year.

His defiance has paralyzed the country. Electricity output was cut on Thursday as unions raised pressure on the government to withdraw the law. The civil aviation authority said flight services will continue to be reduced at the weekend. Protests also targeted oil depots and blocked an LNG terminal in the northern city of Dunkirk.

The legislation has drawn huge crowds in demonstrations organized by unions since January.

“The best response we can give the president is that there are millions of people on strike and in the streets," Martinez said.

Socialist Party head Olivier Faure said Macron “has put more explosives on an already well lit inferno" by dismissing calls to fire his prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, who has been at the forefront of the pension reform.

Observers say the latest wave of protests represent the most serious challenge to Macron’s authority since the Yellow Vests protests of December 2018, which erupted over high fuel prices.

Macron remains defiant. On Wednesday, he accused opponents of not coming up with a single “compromise solution” except that it be dropped entirely.

Opponents of the pension plan, however, say the changes will negatively impact women, public sector workers and people on lower pay.

They also say the government is prioritizing businesses and people who are highly paid over average laborers.

Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:

Press TV News Roku