How French riot police deal with strikers: Baton-wielding cops attack protesters and use tear gas in Paris as ‘Black Thursday’ union action over pension reforms turns violent
- Riot police were deployed in Paris because of strikes against pension reforms
- Thousands of people took part in France’s ‘Black Thursday’ demonstrations
- Anarchists calling themselves “Black Bloc” were blamed for turning against cops
A ‘Black Thursday’ of demonstrations and strikes against pension reforms has degenerated into violence in France today.
The worst problems were in Paris, where protesters clashed with police around Bastille Square.
Anarchists calling themselves “Black Bloc” were blamed for infiltrating a planned march and then turning on officers.
“They started throwing stones and other projectiles,” said an officer on the scene, adding that 30 arrests had been made by 5pm.
As the violence increased, police used tear gas and firearms to restore order.
Trade unions predicted that a million people across France would mobilize to take steps to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030.
Mass demonstrations took place in France today against pension reforms that would raise the retirement age to 64
Riot police officer grabs hold of a protester during a demonstration against pension changes
Fabien Roussel, leader of the Communist Party, said: “On Thursday, the walls of the Élysée Palace should shake.”
In turn, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin pledged to crack down on would-be rioters, saying “More than 10,000 police and gendarmes will be mobilised, including 3,500 in Paris.”
Cross-Channel ferries, airports, commuter trains and buses, meanwhile, were all hit by strike action, while schools and colleges were also closed.
Under new proposals outlined in the Paris parliament, people would have to work two years longer to get a full pension.
This has been hailed by President Emmanuel Macron as essential to protecting France’s hugely expensive system.
Anarchists calling themselves ‘Black Bloc’ were blamed for infiltrating a planned march and then turning on officers
Thousands to join a demonstration against pension reform in Paris earlier today
He was at a rally in Spain, where he welcomed “democratic protest” but said any riots would be met with “the full force of the law.”
According to an IFOP poll this week, his ideas for pension reform have proven highly unpopular, with 68% saying they are against it.
All the country’s trade unions have condemned the move, as have the left-wing and far-right opposition parties in the National Assembly.
Macron’s renaissance party does not have a parliamentary majority, so it must count on the support of about 60 MPs from the conservative Republican party to push his pension reforms through.
As the parliamentary process drags on for months and weeks, Macron faces an ongoing campaign of opposition.
President Macron said he welcomed “democratic protest” but said any riots would be met with “the full force of the law.”
Most other European countries have taken steps to raise the official retirement age, which is currently 66 in Britain.
President Macron made an earlier attempt to reform the system in 2019, but scrapped it due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This is France’s seventh attempt at pension reform since Socialist President François Mitterrand lowered the retirement age to 60 in 1982.
Each subsequent attempt to reverse that change has led to massive resistance in the streets.
In 2010, conservative Nicolas Sarkozy raised the retirement age to 62, despite weeks of massive protests.