Earlier this month, waste piles began forming along the picture-perfect Parisian neighbourhoods. Garbage collection services and the city’s public transport providers continue to be on strike, paralysing their services. This is in response to French President Emmanuel Macron’s introduction of the new pension reform, increasing the age of retirement from 62 to 64.
Protestors began taking part in rallies across the country, uniting against the reform. With such intense disagreement, two motions of censure were tabled by centrist Libertés Indépendants Outre-Mer & Territoires (LIOT) group and the far-right National Rally (RN) party. The objective of this move was to prevent Macron’s Bill from becoming law, but it was announced last Monday that the motion of censure against the pension reform did not pass.
However, French protestors and unions are continuing to show absolutely no sign of backing down. Fury erupted as smoke bombs were dispersed at Biarritz airport, protestors stood along the tracks at rail stations, and people filled the streets pushing bins over and setting them alight.
Store windows have been smashed, forcing some businesses and designer stores to temporarily close. Another tactic that has been used nationwide is obstructing airports, with Terminal 1 at Charles de Gaulle airport being blocked off on Thursday morning.
“Nothing will weaken the determination of the workers,” said the CGT union.
Despite protests making a powerful impact on day-to-day life in France, the French government remains defiant. They have been known to overcome strikes and protests in the past – including Nicolas Sarkozy’s government when they raised the retirement age from 60 to 62 back in 2010.
Protestors are hoping for the same outcome when President Jacques Chirac’s government was forced to back down over the 1995 pension reform, and 2006 youth labour law reform.
A new wave of protests emerged on Tuesday. Up to 900,000 protesters joined the 240 rallies planned throughout France, 100,000 alone in Paris. With an increase in street violence amongst the protests, union leaders have called on President Macron to put the controversial pension reform on hold.
An anonymous Parisian protestor told TheSocialTalks: “If our president really cares about us, if our government really cares about us, they will rethink this decision. I mean just look at us, look at the streets! Macron do you see this? Or are you blind?”
Another told us: “Protesting is a big part of our culture, to the rest of the world this may be shocking, but this was expected. That’s why I’m not too sure if Macron will drop the reform, I’m sure he knew this was going to happen”.
Protesters along Republique could be heard chanting “we beheaded Louis XVI, we can start again”, referring to the execution of Louis XVI during the French Revolution.
Despite witnessing some of these aggressive acts during the protests, they have not been entirely violent. This Tuesday protestors were also seen peacefully walking in solidarity, even playing music and dancing together.
Clémence, a protestor in Paris explained to us: “It’s not necessarily about violence, I’ve seen people smash store windows, I don’t really agree with that. For me, it’s about uniting and standing up for what we believe in. I think it’s powerful. We care about each other, and if we’re all here protesting this reform then isn’t it obvious who is in the wrong? Why is it that the only ones who agree with this are the wealthy politicians who won’t suffer the consequences of the retirement age? It’s not right.”
A local Franprix worker also said: “If you don’t listen to us, we will only get angrier”, he then went on to tell us he plans on joining the protest after his shift ends.
Last week’s round of protests prompted Macron to cancel a planned state visit last week by the United Kingdom’s King Charles III. The visit was set to be his first overseas visit since becoming King.
Despite efforts from protestors, Macron has so far insisted he will not back down from raising the pension age in a TV interview. He explained in the interview “I have not succeeded in convincing people of the necessity of this reform”. He remains adamant that the reform is necessary and that it’s just a matter of understanding why.
It seems there is no ending in sight for this political conflict, as the unions have called for another demonstration on April 6. We will continue to report on this story as updates emerge.
Edited by: Yasmin Hailes
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