Protesters held a sometimes restive fourth round of nationwide demonstrations across France against President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to reform the country’s pension system.
More than 960,000 people marched in Paris, Nice, Marseille, Toulouse, Nantes and other cities on Saturday, according to the interior ministry.
In Paris, authorities counted some 93,000 participants, the most to demonstrate in the capital against the pension changes since the protests started last month. The demonstrations drew young people and others opposed to the pension proposals who were not able to attend the previous three days of action, all held on weekdays.
This time, though, rail worker strikes did not accompany the demonstrations, allowing trains and the Paris Metro to operate.
However, an unexpected strike by air traffic controllers meant that up to half of flights to and from Paris’s second-largest airport, Orly, were cancelled on Saturday afternoon.
Saturday’s protests featured flashes of unrest. One car and several dustbins were set on fire on a central Parisian boulevard as police charged the crowd and dispersed protesters with tear gas.
Paris police said officers arrested eight people for infractions ranging from possession of a firearm to vandalism.
Some demonstrators walked as families through the French capital’s Place de la Republique carrying banners with emotional messages.
“I don’t want my parents to die at work,” read one, held by a teenage boy.
Despite opinion polls consistently showing growing opposition to the reform and his own popularity shrinking, Macron insisted that he is living up to a key campaign pledge he made when he swept to power in 2017 and before his April 2022 re-election.
His government is now facing a harsh political battle in parliament that could span weeks or months.
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