French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday, March 24, 2023, that he will press ahead with reforms, ignoring a trade union leader’s call for a suspension of the new pension law, amid one of the worst street violence in France in years.
Violent clashes erupted across the country on Thursday evening 03/23 in otherwise peaceful protests that for weeks drew large crowds of opponents of extending the retirement age to 64 from 62.
A police station in the western town of Lorient was targeted, the Bordeaux town hall was set on fire and hundreds of fires were reported across the country.
Some 441 police officers were injured and 475 people were arrested. Dozens of protesters were injured.
In this atmosphere, the visit of the British monarch, King Charles, to France, which was scheduled to start on Sunday, was postponed.
Laurent Berger, head of the French Democratic Union of Labor, urged Macron earlier in the day to “show a gesture” to calm things down. Berger suggested that the solution is to suspend the reform for six months and seek a compromise.
After an EU summit in Brussels, when asked about the protests, Macron merely echoed remarks he made earlier this week that he was ready to discuss future policy changes with the unions. We will give nothing to violence, I condemn violence to the fullest.”
He added that the pension law will simply run its course, and is now in the process of reviewing its legality in the French Constitutional Council. The government passed the law in Parliament without a vote.
In Paris and many other cities across the country, clean-up crews worked amid broken glass, charred rubbish bins and smashed bus stops after violent clashes overnight between black-clad protesters and police. A tag appeared on one of the ATMs: “Paris is burning.”
Opinion polls showed that a large majority of voters oppose the pension bill. Voters were furious after the government’s decision to skip
Voting in Parliament and Macron comparing the protests to the storming of the US Congress building on January 6, 2021.
The latest wave of protests and clashes has become the most serious challenge to Macron’s authority since the “yellow vest” revolution of the angry working class four years ago.
On a shattered window of a Starbucks coffee shop in Paris, someone wrote the word democracy in big red letters. On charred newsstands and damaged shop windows, graffiti read “Against Macron” and “Macron, resign”.