By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
PARIS (Worthy News) – More than a million people marched across France against pension reforms pushed through by the government without parliamentary approval, and French unions urged nationwide protests when Britain‘s King Charles III visits the country next week.
Police fired tear gas and fought with violent black-clad anarchists in Paris and elsewhere as anger spread over President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the pension age from 62 to 64.
Pension is seen as a sacred right in France with its perceived work-less-and-live-more ethics. Yet, President Macron defended raising the retirement age without a parliamentary vote, saying there was too much economic risk to the country if legislators voted against the bill.
Macron instructed the prime minister, Élisabeth Borne, to invoke article 49.3 of the constitution last week, allowing the government to adopt a bill without a parliamentary vote.
As Borne spoke, parliamentarians began singing the national anthem while leftwing legislators held placards saying “64 no” and called for the prime minister’s resignation.
Though forced through parliament, pension protests are growing, with the Interior Ministry saying the violent marred march in Paris, the capital, drew 119,000 people.
Other estimates suggested at least 800,000 people participated in the Paris protest, with hundreds of thousands of people rallying elsewhere and more demonstrations expected.
MORE STRIKES SPREADING
Strikes upended travel as protesters blockaded train stations, Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, refineries, and ports. The famed Eiffel Tower and the Versailles Palace were closed Thursday due to the strikes.
In Paris, street battles between police and black-clad, masked groups who attacked at least two fast-food restaurants, a supermarket, and a bank reflected intensified violence.
However, they drew attention away from the many peaceful marchers, witnesses said.
Clashes also broke out in other areas, notably in the western cities of Nantes, Rennes, and Lorient — where an administrative building was attacked, the courtyard of the police station was set afire, and its windows were broken — and in Lyon, in the southeast.
Despite the social turmoil, Macron insisted Wednesday that the government’s bill to raise the retirement age must be implemented by the end of the year.
Critics attacked him for the statement, describing him as “self-satisfied,” “out of touch,” and “offensive.” Nadia Belhoum, a 48-year-old bus driver participating in the action: “The president of the Republic … is not a king, and he should listen to his people,” she said.
She spoke ahead of British King Charles III’s visit to France, which trade unions pledged to disturb with massive protests.
EIFFEL TOWER TARGETED
The Eiffel Tower and the Versailles Palace were closed Thursday due to the strikes while demonstrators blocked major highways and interchanges to slow traffic around big cities.
The Education Ministry said nearly one in four teachers in primary and middle schools walked off the job on Thursday, and 15 percent in high schools.
At Paris’ Gare de Lyon train station, several hundred strikers walked on railway tracks to prevent trains from moving, brandishing flares and chanting, “and we will go, and we will go until withdrawal” and “Macron, go away.”
Despite the turmoil, President Macron insisted that the government’s bill to raise the retirement age must be implemented by the end of the year.
Critics described him as “self-satisfied,” “out of touch,” and “offensive.” Nadia Belhoum, a 48-year-old bus driver participating in the action, also criticized Macron’s decision.
“The president of the Republic … is not a king, and he should listen to his people,” Belhoum said.
She spoke just days before Britain’s King Charles III plans to visit France, which trade unions have pledged to interrupt with massive protests.
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