More than 13,000 officers were deployed across France Tuesday as protests against pension reforms intensify in a test for President Emmanuel Macron.
French police are ramping up security after the government warned that radical demonstrators intended “to destroy, to injure and to kill,” The Associated Press reported.
Concerns that violence could mar the demonstrations prompted what Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin described as an unprecedented deployment of 13,000 officers, including about 5,000 concentrated in the capital of Paris, where police faced down ultra-leftist radicals.
Reuters reported that black-clad groups set fire to garbage cans and threw projectiles at police in Paris. Police responded with tear gas. Clashes also broke out in similar demonstrations in cities, including Rennes, Bordeaux and Toulouse. A bank branch and cars set were ablaze in Nantes.
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Across France, train drivers, nurses, teachers, oil-refinery staff and other workers went on strike Tuesday. Amid the unrest, hundreds of international and domestic flights were canceled, train and other public transportation was impacted and some schools were forced to shutter, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Protesters are opposing Macron’s re-election campaign promise to reform the pension system by raising the retirement age to 64 from 62 by 2030.
Macron bypassed parliament to usher in the reforms, which supporters argue will keep the French economy competitive and preserve the system without raising taxes or increasing debt.
The French leader previously used a special constitutional power to ram the reform past legislators without allowing them a vote. His move this month further galvanized the protest movement. Violence has since flared, and thousands of tons of reeking trash has piled up on Paris streets during a sanitation workers strike.
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Union groups argue the reform will penalize those who entered the workforce at a young age, namely those with physically demanding jobs.
Police estimated 93,000 people marched in Paris Tuesday.
That’s less than the record 119,000 at a March 23 demonstration. Still, Tuesday’s turnout is more than or equal to earlier protests that began in January.
Since mid-January, authorities say, millions of people have been demonstrating and joining strikes against the bill.
This comes as French prosecutors raided five major banks in Paris Tuesday as part of a sweeping fraud investigation spanning four continents.
The Eiffel Tower’s website announced strikers had closed down the world-famous tourist attraction. The Louvre Museum was similarly blocked by a strike Monday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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