Violent clashes continue over France's pension age reforms
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Snowballing pension protests have ground parts of France to a halt tonight, with demonstrators reportedly outnumbering the thousands of police officers currently on the streets. Approximately 800,000 people have taken to the streets to demand President Emmanuel Macron backtrack on his executive decision to raise the retirement age. Violence has broken out in a police station and court house as furious Parisians throwing stones clashed with officers who returned fire with tear gas and batons.
Activists reportedly attempted to storm the government building in Brittany, Lorient, while others attempted to set a police HQ alight.
The growing fury against Mr Macron prompted the break-ins as services across the country ground to a halt.
The ninth one-day general strike has seen schools, airports, train stations and roads closed as unions and activists gather momentum.
The chaos was echoed in Paris, where crowds on the Grands Boulevards thoroughfare threw projectiles at police officers.
In some cases, protesters were seen setting off fireworks in the direction of security force personnel.
They were also reportedly throwing tear gas canisters back to riot officers, with armed police pictured struggling to hold them back.
One image of the struggle showed officers carrying away an injured colleague.
The CGT union estimates that 800,000 people have taken to the streets, but official figures suspect the true number is far smaller.
French officials have deployed roughly 12,000 police officers to curb the disorder as leaders fear the violence will only worsen.
Government personnel, including Mr Macron himself, have condemned the actions, comparing them to the storming of the Washington DC Capitol building in 2021.
Speaking on television on Wednesday, he said: “When the US experienced what it went through on Capitol Hill, when Brazil experienced what it experienced, when you had the extreme violence in Germany, in the Netherlands or sometimes here, we must say: we respect, we listen.”
He added: “But we cannot accept rebels and factions.”
The violence is a direct response to a decision by Mr Macron, who imposed the order to raise the retirement age without allowing French parliamentarians to grant their assent.
He deployed article 49.3, a product of the French constitution after it appeared his motion to raise the retirement age would be thwarted.
Mr Macron claimed he wanted to pass the measure through Parliament, but said the “economic risks” were too great.
According to Politico, he privately told an aide: “My political interest would have been to submit to a vote … But I consider that the financial, economic risks are too great at this stage.”
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