More than 1 million people took to the streets of France on Thursday in protest of President Macron’s unpopular retirement reform.
Nearly 120,000 people protested in Paris alone, the largest crowd since the protests began earlier this year.
Most French people oppose raising the retirement age, polls show, but Macron has repeatedly said it was necessary to keep the national pension program solvent. Last week, the measure, which raises the age from 62 to 64, was pushed through using a special constitutional provision and without legislation, prompting another round of protests.
Nationwide participation in the marches and strikes prompted union leaders to call for further action next Tuesday to coincide with King Charles of England’s visit to France.
“While the (president) tries to turn the page, this social and union movement… confirms the determination of the world of workers and youth to obtain the withdrawal of the reform,” eight unions organizing protests said in a statement.
In Paris and elsewhere, protesters set fires and clashed with police as they blocked train stations, Charles de Gaulle airport, industrial zones and ports. Popular tourist destinations like the Eiffel Tower and the Palace of Versailles were closed due to the strikes. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd near the Place de l’Opera after a march ended.
Local government and police buildings in Nantes, Rennes, Lyon and Lorient were also damaged during actions on Thursday.
The government maintained that the British king’s visit would go ahead as planned.
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“There are rioters, often from the extreme left, who want to bring down the state and kill the police and ultimately take over the institutions,” Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said while visiting the police headquarters in Paris.
The ongoing protests came days after Macron survived a vote of no confidence that would have led to both a reversal of the policy and Macron’s resignation if successful.
Macron said the new retirement policy would take effect at the end of the year.
However, the demonstrations showed no signs of slowing down.
“This year our holidays may not be so good,” said Maxime Monin, a 46-year-old striking public transport worker. “But I think it’s worth the sacrifice.”
with cable news services