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France Continues to Protest Raising the Retirement Age

Protests regarding raising the retirement age continue, blocking the French capital’s Orly Airport and the Paris Olympics headquarters on Tuesday. 

Union activists went on strike in late April and early May to protest French President Emmanuel Macron’s move to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. His reasoning behind raising the age was to regulate the pension budget and ensure that the country would not go into a deficit as a result. France has the third-highest pension system in the OECD at nearly 14%. 

The people were further angered by Macron’s decision to push it through parliament without putting the matter up to vote. The law went into effect in April despite mass protests and strikes across the country, however, the movement has subsided significantly since then.

"For our fellow citizens, a new denial of democracy will only lead to increased disaffection for our institutions, which is already manifesting itself in the form of growing abstentionism, and even an increase in anger and violence," an op-ed in Le Monde daily, one of France’s most circulated papers, said. 

Due to Tuesday’s protests, a third of the flights had to be canceled and 10% of trains all around France were disrupted. Some demonstrators took their message to the railroads and blocked trains from coming or going. 

"Again today we've had to cancel some 400 flights ... because of French ATC strikes. The majority of these flights are overflights and not going to France," Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary said in a video on Twitter

Small demonstrations took place around the country, both peaceful and unruly. Police were expecting much larger crowds and dispatched more officers on the street as a precaution. 

Several protestors forced their way into the Olympics headquarters while chanting anti-Macron messages and carrying banners depicting their distaste for the government. The current president is not eligible for reelection because French law states that a president can only serve two consecutive terms at a time. 

"There was no violence and no damage," an Olympic Games spokesperson told Reuters.

Minor vandalism took place in Paris but police were able to quickly disperse the crowd before it went any further. Thousands gathered along the River Seine in peaceful protest waving flags, banging drums, and demanding the law be repealed. 

The turnout for these protests was estimated to be about 280,000, which is significantly less than the crowd that showed up to the last major protest demonstrations on May 1. The figures from the previous protest are estimated to be over a million

This week’s protests were sparked because the increase in the pension age was printed on Sunday in France’s official journal, meaning it is now law. Yael Braun-Pivet, a member of Macron’s centrist party and Parliament speaker, was set to rule on Thursday to return the age to 62, however the matter was removed from the Liot motion. 

The Leftist opposition is seeking to have the vote be brought back via an amendment. 

"The defeat has not been enacted," Greens MP Sandrine Rousseau told Radio J, saying that "we will raise our voices" if the parliament vote is not allowed.

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