‘Blood and Fire’ in France: Battles on the Streets as Riot Cops Charge Protesters Amid Biggest Security Operation in Recent History

Anti-government rioters brought ‘fire and blood’ to the streets of France today – days after a state visit by King Charles was cancelled because of the violence. Up to a million people joined Tuesday’s marches against President Emmanuel Macron raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 without a parliamentary vote.

Ones in cities including Paris and Nantes erupted into violence with gangs involved in running battles with the police. They were supported by armoured cars, water cannons, and military units in reserve. Dozens of fires were lit around Nation square in Paris after an authorised march finished in the mid-afternoon. Paramilitary units responded with tear gas rounds and baton charges, in an attempt to hold back a huge group. The most feared group was the Black Bloc – an alliance of anarchists from all over Europe.

King Charles and Camilla, the Queen Consort, were meant to be in Bordeaux today, as part of a four-day state visit to France, but it was dramatically halted on Friday. Attacks included an attempt to burn down the City Hall in the southwest city, where unions had pledged to barrack the Royal couple.

The protest movement is the biggest domestic crisis of Macron’s second term, with the strikes on Tuesday also affecting refineries, bin collections, rail transport, air travel and schools The Louvre museum in Paris was blocked by strikers, while pickets continued at petrol depots and waste incinerators, particularly surrounding the capital, where 10,000 tonnes of rubbish are still piling up.

The crisis has intensified as lawyers complain of excess violence and arbitrary arrests by squads of paramilitary police. Despite the violence and industrial paralysis, Mr Macron and his prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, said there was no chance of a climb down from flagship pensions reform. But Laurent Berger, the head of the moderate CFDT union, said the protests would continue until there was a U-turn. 

Millions of people have been demonstrating, largely peacefully, and joining strike action since mid-January to show their opposition to Macron’s plans to make most of them work an extra two years to 64. But public frustration has evolved into broader anti-Macron sentiment.

The protests have intensified since the government used special constitutional powers to bypass parliament on a final vote on the pensions bill almost two weeks ago, bringing scenes of chaos reminiscent of unrest by supporters of the yellow-vest movement during Macron’s first term as president.


Daily Mail
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