Protestors block railway lines following the pension reform Protestors block railway lines following the pension reform  (AFP or licensors)

Hundreds detained in France as anger spreads over pension reforms

At least 300 people have been detained across France as police in Paris and elsewhere clashed with protesters after the French government decided to force pension reforms without a vote in parliament. The protests and strikes escalated across the country.

By Stefan J. Bos

Listen to Stefan Bos' report

Police fired water cannons and tear gas overnight as thousands took their anger to the streets of Paris after the French government raised the retirement age from 62 to 64.

Some protestors threw cobblestones; others started fires. As a result, several shops were also damaged.

Police carrying shields and batons tried to disperse the crowds.

Protestors are furious that the government raised the pension age without parliamentary approval.

President Emanuel Macron instructed the prime minister, Élisabeth Borne, to invoke article 49.3 of the constitution, allowing the government to adopt a bill without a parliamentary vote. But it wasn’t easy.

As the prime minister tried to make the announcement, several parliamentarians began singing the national anthem. Left-wing legislators held placards saying “64 no”. They also called for the prime minister’s resignation, saying the procedure was undemocratic.

Economic risk

President Macron defended raising the retirement age without a parliamentary vote, saying there was too much economic risk to the country if legislators voted against the bill.

However, the anger has now spread from the seats of parliament to the streets and industries.

Protesters again briefly blocked traffic on the Paris ring road early Friday after hundreds were detained in spontaneous protests across France.

Refinery strikes have also escalated in France while a bin collectors’ strike in Paris continued, with thousands of tonnes of waste piling up in streets across half of the city.

A further day of coordinated strike action by transport workers and teachers was due next Thursday.

Opposition politicians have accused the government of a brutal and undemocratic approach to pension reforms, suggesting that the social and political turmoil is far from over.

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17 March 2023, 17:34