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Macron booed by French protesters over pension reform

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) talks to a protester in Selestat, eastern France on April 19, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron has been loudly booed by angry protesters as he appeared before crowds of people on his first trip out of Paris after signing into law his controversial pension reform bill.

As he arrived in Selestat in the Alsace region on Tuesday, local protesters greeted him by chanting slogans such as "Macron resign!" and booed and jeered the president, with some personally heckling him, AFP reported.

One man, according to the report, accused him of having a "corrupt government on a scale we have never seen before," insisting, "You will fall soon, you'll see."

The encounter came after Macron was urged by his political allies to get out and meet voters after signing the highly unpopular reform legislation after months of protests, with some fearing he was becoming too reclusive inside the presidential palace.

Raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 has sparked numerous violent protest rallies and strikes across the country. Macron, however, eventually signed it into law on Saturday.

Protesters on Wednesday further described Macron's government as "corrupt,” with another protester shouting, "We don't want this pension (reform), what don't you get?"

The scene resembled Macron's visits around France during the "Yellow Vest" protests of 2018-19, when he was frequently confronted by angry hecklers or protesters.

The French president, however, seemed not to have been disturbed. He told reporters he has "had it worse," in response to a question about how he felt.

On an earlier stage of his trip on Wednesday, police pushed back dozens of protesters banging on kitchenware ahead of the president's arrival in the village of Muttersholtz.

Pot-bashing, a form of protest with a long history in France, began during Macron's address to the nation on Monday evening after he signed the bill into law over the weekend.
"The reality across the country is not just those making noise with pans or grumbling," Macron said referring to protesters making the noise.

“Saucepans will not allow France to move forward," Macron mockingly reiterated as he visited a wood factory in the village.

After Wednesday's encounter with protesters, Macron is due to visit a school in the southern Herault region on Thursday.

Macon has made a very few public appearances to speak to voters during the three months after announcing the unpopular pension reform.

Political opponents and trade unions, however, have urged protesters to maintain their campaign against the pension reform law and called for a new day of mass protest on May 1.

Macron, whose approval ratings are near their lowest levels on record, has been facing the biggest domestic challenge of his second term over the reform.

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