Violence flares as French protesters vent fury at Macron reform

PARIS: Protesters clashed with French security forces on Thursday (Mar 23) in the most serous violence yet of a three-month revolt against President Emmanuel Macron’s hugely controversial pension reform.

Dozens of police were injured, and dozens of protesters arrested nationwide, the government said, as a day of protests descended into violence in several cities including Paris, where protesters lit fires in the historic centre of the city.

The uproar over the imposition of the reform – which the government chose to push through without a parliamentary vote – has turned into the biggest domestic crisis of Macron’s second term in office.

It also threatens to cast a shadow over next week’s visit to France of King Charles III, the first foreign visit he has made as monarch. Unions have announced fresh strikes and protests for Tuesday, the second full day of his visit.

The numbers in Paris and other cities were higher than in previous protest days, the protests given new momentum by Macron’s refusal in a TV interview Wednesday to back down on the reform.

Police and protesters again clashed on the streets of the capital during a major demonstration, security forces firing teargas and charging crowds with batons.

Some protesters lit fires in the street, setting ablaze pallets and piles of uncollected rubbish, prompting firefighters to intervene, AFP correspondents said.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said that, across France, 123 members of the security forces had been injured and at least 80 people arrested.

Some 1.089 million protesters took part in demonstrations across France, the interior ministry said, putting the Paris turnout at 119,000, the highest for the capital since the movement started in January.

The nationwide figure still fell short of the 1.28 million people who marched on Mar 7, according to the government figures.

Unions claimed a record 3.5 million people had protested across France, and 800,000 in the capital.

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