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Hundreds arrested as over a million protest in 300 cities in France

Riot police seen with smoke rising in the background in Bordeaux, western France, on March 23, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

Hundreds of protesters have been arrested, and hundreds of French security forces injured as more than one million people take part in a nationwide protest against French president Emmanuel Macron's pension plan.

According to interior minister Gerald Darmanin, a total of 457 people were arrested and 441 security forces injured. He said 903 fires lit in the streets of Paris in the most violent day of protests since January.

The porch of the Bordeaux town hall, where King Charles III is set to be received early next week, was set on fire Thursday evening.

The demonstrations that have entered its ninth day, mostly peaceful, have severely disrupted train and air travel.

The French interior ministry said that around 119,000 people marched in Paris, a record for the capital during the recent pension protests.

However, it is believed that between one and 3.5 million people took part in nationwide demonstrations in 300 cities on Thursday.

Police fired tear gas and attacked the protesters who are angry with Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.

School teachers are among the many professionals who walked out off their job.

Polls suggest up to 70% of French citizens reject Macron’s new pension plan. He remains defiant, saying the overhaul is necessary to make the system economically viable.

The workers unions have called for their next demonstrations on Tuesday, the day that would coincide with King Charles III's state visit to the country.

According to observers, the ongoing unrest is the gravest challenge to Macron’s authority since the Yellow Vests protests of December 2018.

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