Violent demonstrators took to the streets of Paris Monday and across France to protest against French President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform, joining workers across Europe in May Day rallies.
May 1 marks a worldwide celebration of labor rights, with Macron’s highly unpopular pension bill taking the forefront during the rallies in France..
Police were seen clashing with protesters during the demonstrations in Paris as people in masks threw projectiles amid clouds of tear gas. Local businesses were also targeted, including stores and banks. Ride-sharing bicycles were torched and bus stops smashed leading up to a union march at the central Place de la Republique.
French police made use of drones to film the chaos, sparking concern among privacy defenders and activist groups. Paris police detained 30 individuals, according to The Associated Press.
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Violence spread to the rest of France, with a number of vehicles set on fire and several businesses trashed in Lyon and the front of a local administration building set ablaze in Nantes.
A protester uses a tennis racket to return a tear gas canister during a demonstration, Monday, May 1, 2023, in Paris. (AP Photo/Aurelien Morissard)
Last month, Macron raised the retirement age by two years, from 62 to 64, despite strikes and union outcry against the reform.
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Protests broke out shortly after Macron pushed the new legislation through without a parliamentary vote, with the president relying on Article 49.3 of the constitution to allow such a move. Two no-confidence votes were held over the unpopular bill, with the government surviving both.
Macron’s popularity took a hit following the pension bill, seeing record lows last seen during the “Yellow Vest” crisis of 2018-2019. Union leaders, along with French workers, have been vocal about their discontent with the president.
In April, Macron was met with a wave of hecklers calling for his resignation while in the town of Selestat, with one man telling him his government was “corrupt” and saying, “You’ll soon fall! You’ll see.”
“The executive cannot govern without the support of its people,” Sophie Binet, leader of the hard-left CGT union, said ahead of the Paris protest, according to Reuters. Binet said her union had not yet decided on talks with the government on other work-related issues.
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Laurent Breger, head of the CFDT trade union, said the government has been deaf to the demands of one of the most powerful social movements in recent years, telling BFM TV that other proposals regarding salaries and working conditions must be brought to the table for discussion.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.