Anger spread to the streets of Paris on Friday as angry protesters disrupted traffic and set fire to cars and barricades as a controversial bill to raise the retirement age was forced through parliament without a vote.
In Paris and other French cities, several cars were set on fire in the evening during demonstrations involving several thousand people. Unions mobilized workers to briefly block a Paris ring road.
Angry critics, political opponents and unions across France have all criticized President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to ram the bill to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 through the legislature.
Opposition parties are expected to start procedures later today for a vote of no confidence against the government led by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne.
The vote is likely to take place early next week.
A barricade burns as protesters block traffic on Paris’ peripheral boulevard in the morning hours to distribute fliers against the French government’s pension reform
A cyclist drives past full bins in Paris’s 2nd arrondissement as garbage collectors strike against pension reforms, leaving many streets in the capital littered with stinking rubbish
People wave flags of the General Confederation of Trade Unions (CGT) as they block traffic on Paris’ peripheral boulevard
Macron on Thursday ordered Borne to exercise a special constitutional power to push through the deeply unpopular pension law without a vote in the National Assembly, France’s lower house.
His calculated risk enraged opposition lawmakers, many citizens and unions.
The French attach great importance to maintaining the official retirement age at 62, one of the lowest in European countries.
More than eight in 10 people are dissatisfied with the government’s decision to skip a vote in parliament, and 65 percent want strikes and protests to continue, a Toluna Harris Interactive poll for RTL radio found .
On Thursday, thousands gathered in protest on Place de la Concorde, opposite the National Assembly building.
As night fell, police officers attacked the demonstrators in waves to clear the Place.
Small groups then marched through nearby streets in the posh Champs-Elysees district, setting street fires.
Similar scenes were repeated in numerous other cities, from Rennes and Nantes in eastern France to Lyon and the southern port city of Marseille, where shop windows and bank fronts were smashed, local French media reported.
The Eiffel Tower is seen setting fire to protesters as clashes occur with riot police during a demonstration against the French government’s plan to raise the legal retirement age
Protesters light fire as clashes occur with riot police during a demonstration against plans to raise the retirement age
Demonstration in Paris takes place at Place de la Concorde, after the use of Article 49.3 to validate the government’s pension reform
Protesters chant against the French government during demonstrations at Place de la Concorde
Clashes occur during a demonstration against the French government’s plan to raise the legal retirement age in Paris
French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin told radio station RTL on Friday that 310 people were arrested overnight. According to Darmanin, a total of 258 arrests were made in Paris.
The unions that had organized strikes and demonstrations against a higher retirement age said more demonstrations and protest marches would take place in the coming days.
“This pension reform is ruthless, unfair and unjustified to the working-class world,” they declared.
Macron has made proposed pension changes the top priority of his second term, arguing that reforms are needed to make France’s economy more competitive and prevent the pension system from plunging into deficit. France, like many wealthier countries, is experiencing lower birth rates and higher life expectancy.
Macron decided to invoke the special power at a cabinet meeting minutes before a scheduled vote in the National Assembly, where the legislation failed to guarantee majority support. The Senate approved the bill on Thursday.
Protesters take part in a demonstration against the French government’s plan to raise the statutory retirement age
Protesters light fire as clashes occur with riot police during a demonstration
Riot police advance as clashes take place at a demonstration in Paris last night
CGT union members light torches on the ring road as they block traffic to protest
Opposition lawmakers demanded that the government resign. If the expected no-confidence motion passes, which would require the approval of more than half of the Assembly, it would be a first since 1962 and force the government to resign. It would also mean the end of Macron’s pension reform plan.
Macron could reappoint Borne if he wanted to, and a new cabinet would be appointed. If the motion fails, the pension law is considered passed.
Speaking to the protests, far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon said: “Something fundamental happened, and that is that spontaneous mobilizations immediately took place across the country.”
“It goes without saying that I encourage them, I think that’s what happens there.”