Police clashed with over a million demonstrators opposed to President Macron’s pension reform © Twitter
French authorities struggled on Thursday to suppress the protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform. Over a million demonstrators took to the streets across the country in what some security sources described as an “insurrection” against the government in Paris.
Tens of thousands of workers went on strike and protesters blocked public transportation, schools and oil refineries. Attempting to break up the protests, police used tear gas, water cannons, flash-bangs and batons. Videos making rounds on social media showed heavily armored officers clubbing unarmed demonstrators.
La police procède à de nombreuses charges et matraque les manifestants dans le cortège parisien.#manif23mars#reformedeseetraitespic.twitter.com/CfBHJ4G4pz
— Amar Taoualit (@TaoualitAmar) March 23, 2023
Other videos showed barricades burning in the streets of Paris. The entrance to the city hall in Bordeaux, the regional capital of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, was set ablaze at one point.
At least one unit of firefighters switched sides and joined the protesters. Multiple eyewitnesses described the situation as “out of control.”
“It’s war in Paris, no time to post, take care of yourself,” tweeted one independent media outlet.
JUST IN: Protests in France are NOT LETTING UP, videos from Paris emerge showing what looks like a war zone..WHY IS THE MEDIA HIDING CIVIL UNREST? pic.twitter.com/OP64Km1UCT
— Chuck Callesto (@ChuckCallesto) March 23, 2023
More than 120 police officers have been injured, Interior Minister Garald Darmanin said on Thursday evening. The police estimated more than a million protesters were in the streets.
The outpouring of popular discontent was triggered by President Macron’s announcement that the retirement age will be raised from 62 to 64, starting next year. Macron insisted that the change was necessary, otherwise the pension system would go bankrupt within the next several years.
The Elysee Palace imposed the change without consulting lawmakers, who have been trying to deal with the controversial proposal since January. Protesters responded by calling on Macron to resign.
Appearing on TV on Wednesday, Macron said his only mistake was “failing to convince people” of the decision’s merits, but insisted he would not back down, even if that meant having to “shoulder unpopularity.”
While there is a constitutionally protected right to protest, Macron said, if the malcontents use violence, “then that is no longer democracy.”
Though heavily criticized due to the harsh coronavirus lockdowns and mandates, Macron easily won re-election in 2022, eventually defeating Marine Le Pen by a 17-point margin. The runoff election saw the lowest turnout since 1969.