Demonstrators on Tuesday poured by the thousands into France’s streets in the latest clash of wills with the government over its plans to raise the retirement age — with protests even taking place on tiny islands.
Labor unions aimed to mobilize more than 1 million protesters in what one leader described as a “citizens’ insurrection.”
The nationwide strikes and protests are a crucial test for French President Emmanuel Macron’s government and its opponents.
The government says it is determined to push through Macron’s election pledge to reform France’s pension system.
Labor unions and legislators fighting in parliament against Macron’s plans were counting on massive protests to strengthen their efforts to kill the bill that would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.
As large crowds marched in cities and towns, La France Insoumise member Jean-Luc Melenchon said that it was “a historic day” of protests and predicted defeat for Macron.
In Paris, flag-waving, horn-blowing demonstrators gathered in large numbers for an afternoon march through the capital.
“It’s not often that we see such a mass mobilization,” said Melenchon, speaking in the southern city of Marseille. “It’s a form of citizens’ insurrection.”
In big cities and small villages, rebellion was in the air.
On Ouessant, a tiny western isle of about 800 people off the tip of Brittany, about 100 demonstrators gathered outside the office of Mayor Denis Palluel and marched, he said.
Speaking by telephone, Palluel said that the prospect of having to work longer alarmed mariners on the island with arduous ocean-going jobs.
“Retiring at a reasonable age is important, because life expectancy isn’t very long,” he said.
A first round of strikes and protests brought out between 1 million and 2 million demonstrators earlier this month, including many tens of thousands in Paris. Data from the French Ministry of the Interior showed that about 1.27 million marched on Tuesday, with about 250 demonstrations across the country.
The government mobilized 11,000 officers to police the protests.
Riot police charged and fired tear gas as a small group of people in black broke a bank window and splattered the front with pink paint on Paris’ Left Bank.
Police said they stopped “radical elements” from damaging store fronts down the road and put a stop to efforts to build barricades.
Police said that three hours after the start of the Paris march, 18 people had been arrested.
Positions are hardening on both sides as lawmakers begin locking horns in parliament over the retirement reform bill.
On Monday, Macron described the reform as “essential.”
French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne at the weekend said that raising the retirement age to 64 is “no longer negotiable.”
Strikers and protesters hoped to prove otherwise.
Rail operator SNCF reported major disruptions, with strikes knocking out most trains in the Paris region, in all other regions, and on France’s flagship high-speed network linking cities and major towns.
The Paris Metro was also hard hit by station closures and cancelations.
Power workers also demonstrated their support for the strikes by temporarily reducing electricity supplies, without causing blackouts, power producer EDF said.
Jamila Sariac, 60, a civil servant, said that the French pension system should be left alone.
“Social protection is a milestone of our society, a milestone that the government wants to break,” she said, adding that strikes would more effectively pressure the government than demonstrations. “We owe it to our elders who contributed to the wealth of France.”
Construction worker Said Belaiba was among travelers whose morning train from Paris to the city of Lyon was delayed.
Still, the 62-year-old said he opposed the planned reform.
“My job is physically exhausting,” he said. “You can’t keep on over 64.”
Strikes also hit schools, with the French Ministry of Education reporting that about one-quarter of teachers stayed off the job — fewer than in the Jan. 19 first round of protests.
French media also reported walkouts in oil refineries.
Radio station France Inter played music instead of its usual morning talk shows and apologized to its listeners because employees were striking.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) removed former minister of foreign affairs Qin Gang (秦剛) from his post after an investigation concluded that he had conducted an affair and fathered a child while serving as ambassador to the US, the Wall Street Journal reported. Top officials were told in August that a CCP inquiry into Qin uncovered “lifestyle issues,” the newspaper reported yesterday, citing people familiar with the situation that it did not describe. That phrase usually means sexual misbehavior of some type in the parlance of Chinese officialdom. Two of the people said the affair led to the birth of a child in
NO MORE LONG LINES: Swift border crossings for people traveling between Russia and areas it occupies in Ukraine show how quickly Moscow is seeking to absorb them To enter Russia from occupied Ukraine, all Tatiana has to do is arrive at the edge of the war-battered Donetsk region, show guards her Russian passport, say “thank you” and cross. Moscow has controlled several key border points since 2014, but the frontier has become more porous since the Kremlin annexed four Ukrainian territories last year, encouraging residents to take up new citizenship. “It’s become more comfortable because we’ve become Russians,” said the 37-year-old, who is from a Russian-occupied town. Tatiana used to have to go through a more arduous procedure to enter Russia: a check run by Moscow-sponsored separatists, then through Russian
GUNNED DOWN: The Canadian PM said there were credible allegations that India was connected to the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey on June 18 India yesterday dismissed allegations that its government was linked to the killing of a Sikh activist in Canada as “absurd,” expelling a senior Canadian diplomat and accusing Canada of interfering in India’s internal affairs. It came a day after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described what he called credible allegations that India was connected to the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, an advocate of Sikh independence from India who was gunned down on June 18 outside a Sikh cultural center in Surrey, British Columbia, and Canada expelled a top Indian diplomat. “Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a
SECURITY: Wang met with the US national security adviser in Malta over the weekend, with the US side noting the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) yesterday headed to Russia for security talks after two days of meetings with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan over the weekend in Malta. China’s top foreign policy official will be in Russia until Thursday for a round of China-Russia strategic security consultations, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a brief statement. The US and China are at odds over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. China has refrained from taking sides in the war, saying that while a country’s territory must be respected, the West needs to consider Russia’s security concerns about NATO’s