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Friday, 7 April 2023

New clashes hit France in Macron pensions standoff

Radical protesters clashed on Tuesday with French security forces in a new show of anger against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms, with some starting a fire at one of his favourite restaurants.

While the number of protesters has diminished, unions are keen to maintain almost three months of pressure ahead of a key court ruling next week on the retirement overhaul. 

The controversial reforms seek to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, while requiring people to work longer for a full pay-out.

Macron, currently visiting China, is facing the biggest challenge of his second term over the changes, defiantly refusing to budge despite sliding personal popularity ratings.

Demonstrations were held across the country, with people brandishing placards or waving union flags from Paris to the southern cities of Montpellier and Marseille.

“We haven’t given up yet and we don’t intend to,” said 50-year-old public servant Davy Chretien, as he marched in Marseille.

The interior ministry said 570,000 people had demonstrated Thursday, sharply down from the 740,000 it counted last week.

Official figures remain well below organisers’ counts, with the CGT union claiming 400,000 people had turned up to the Paris protest while the ministry tallied 93,000.

Among the crowd, some hardline protesters pelted paint against the shields of heavily equipped policemen outside La Rotonde, a famous Paris brasserie favoured by Macron.

An AFP journalist saw a group of men dressed in black set off fireworks and throw stones toward the eatery.

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