Fury swept through the streets of Paris on Friday as angry protesters disrupted traffic and torched cars and barricades as a controversial bill to raise the retirement age passed without a vote by Parliament.
Several cars were set on fire in Paris and other French cities in the evening during demonstrations involving several thousand people. Unions mobilized workers to briefly block a Paris ring road.
Angry critics, political opponents and unions across France have all lambasted President Emmanuel Macron for his decision to pass the bill raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 through the legislature.
Opposition parties are expected to begin procedures later today for a vote of no confidence in the government led by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne.
The vote would likely take place early next week.
A barricade burns as protesters block traffic on the Paris ring road in the morning to distribute leaflets against the French government’s pension reform
A cyclist drives past full rubbish bins in Paris’ 2nd arrondissement as garbage collectors strike against pension reform, leaving many of the capital’s streets filled with stinky rubbish
People wave flags of the General Confederation of Trade Unions (CGT) as they block traffic on the Paris ring road
Macron on Thursday ordered Borne to exercise special constitutional power to push the wildly unpopular pensions bill without a vote in the National Assembly, the lower house of France’s parliament.
His calculated risk infuriated opposition lawmakers, many citizens and unions.
The French are deeply attached to maintaining the legal retirement age at 62, which is among the lowest in European countries.
More than eight in 10 people are unhappy with the government’s decision to skip a vote in parliament, and 65% want strikes and protests to continue, according to a Toluna Harris Interactive poll for RTL radio.
On Thursday, thousands of people gathered to protest Thursday at Place de la Concorde, which faces the National Assembly building.
At nightfall, the police charged the demonstrators in waves to clear the square.
Small groups then moved through nearby streets in the chic Champs-Élysées district, setting street fires.
Similar scenes were repeated in many other cities, from Rennes and Nantes in eastern France to Lyon and the southern port city of Marseille, where shop windows and bank facades were smashed, the authorities reported. local French media.
The Eiffel Tower is seen as protesters set fires as clashes take place with riot police during a demonstration against the French government’s plan to raise the legal retirement age
Protesters set fires as clashes take place with riot police during a demonstration against plans to raise the retirement age
The demonstration in Paris takes place at Place de la Concorde, following the use of Article 49.3 to validate the government’s pension reform
Protesters sing against the French government during demonstrations in Place de la Concorde
Clashes take place during a demonstration against the French government’s plan to raise the legal retirement age in Paris
French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin told RTL radio on Friday that 310 people had been arrested overnight. A total of 258 of the arrests took place in Paris, according to Darmanin.
Unions that had staged strikes and marches against an increase in the retirement age said more rallies and protest marches would take place in the coming days.
“This pension reform is brutal, unfair, unjustified for the working world,” they said.
Macron has made proposed changes to pensions the top priority of his second term, arguing that reform is needed to make the French economy more competitive and prevent the pension system from sliding into deficit. France, like many wealthy countries, faces lower birth rates and longer life expectancies.
Macron decided to invoke the special power during a Cabinet meeting minutes before a scheduled vote in the National Assembly, where the legislation had no guarantee of winning majority support. The Senate passed the bill earlier Thursday.
Demonstrators take part in a demonstration against the French government’s plan to raise the legal retirement age
Protesters set fires as clashes take place with riot police during a demonstration
Riot police advance as clashes take place at a protest in Paris last night
CGT trade unionists light flares on the ring road as they block traffic in protest
Opposition MPs called on the government to step down. If the expected motion of no confidence is adopted, which requires the approval of more than half of the Assembly, it would be a first since 1962 and would force the government to resign. It would also mean the end of Macron’s pension reform plan.
Macron could renew Borne if he wishes, and a new Cabinet would be appointed. If the motion is not accepted, the Pension Bill will be deemed passed.
Addressing the protests, hard left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon said: “Something fundamental happened, and that is that, immediately, spontaneous mobilizations took place all over the country.”
“It goes without saying that I encourage them, I think that’s where it’s at.”