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Radio France Internationale
Radio France Internationale

French unions call for new protests against pension reform

A riot police officer is lying on the pavement during a demonstration, Monday, May 1, 2023 in Paris. AP - Aurelien Morissard

The French inter-union group has called a new day of mobilisation against the controversial pension reform on 6 June, two days before the presentation of a bill to repeal the text in the National Assembly.

The National Assembly is also due to discuss on Thursday 8 June a request by the LIOT group of deputies (Libertés, and Territories) to repeal the reform and in particular the increase in the legal retirement age from 62 to 64.

This comes after the Interior Ministry reported that over 400 police and gendarmes were injured on Monday during clashes at May Day demonstrations. A total of 540 people were arrested in France, including 305 in Paris.

Protesters clashed with security forces across France as hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets for Labour Day to vent their anger against President Emmanuel Macron's pension reform.

'Black blocs'

Macron last month signed a law to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, despite months of strikes against the bill.

In the capital, 259 police and gendarmes were injured, French interior minister Gérald Darmanin said on Tuesday.

He also noted that 61 demonstrators were injured, including 32 in Paris.

Darmanin condemned protesters he described as being from the far-left, known as "black blocs", saying they numbered around 2,000 in Paris and another 1,000 in the southeastern city of Lyon.

"Those who attacked the police and public property must be severely punished," he said, calling for an "anti-thug law".

In Paris, radical protesters threw projectiles at police and broke windows of businesses such as banks and estate agents, with security forces responding with tear gas and water cannon, correspondents with French news agency AFP reported.

Police intercept a protester during May Day rallies in Paris against the government pension reform, 1 May, 2023 © Vasile Damian / RFI

As police sought to disperse the protest at its end point, some individuals created a fire that spread to a building and prompted the fire service to intervene.

Other cities such as Lyon, Toulouse, Nantes and Marseille also witnessed clashes and vandalism of public property.

Among the injured police and gendarmes, "three are in an extremely serious condition, even if their lives are not in danger," Darmanin said.

The policeman who received a Molotov cocktail in the Parisian demonstration "was burned in the face, he is still hospitalised," he added.

Paris police chief Laurent Nuñez told FranceInfo that among the police injured in Paris, 31 were in hospital.

"There was a level of violence ahead of the protests, among the thugs and extreme individuals which far exceeded the level of violence that we had seen over the last twelve demonstrations", he said.

'Unacceptable' violence

Nuñez welcomed the use of drones during the demonstration which made it possible to note the presence of violent groups.

The use of drones by the police during the Paris procession was authorised by the Paris administrative court after the rejection of an appeal brought by rights groups who say they are illegal and a violation of privacy.

"In many cities in France, this May Day was a moment for responsible mobilisation and commitment. The scenes of violence on the sidelines of the demonstrations are all the more unacceptable," Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne wrote on Twitter.

Some 782,000 people protested across France, including 112,000 in Paris alone, according to the Interior ministry.

The CGT union said it counted 2.3 million protesters across France, including 550,000 in the capital.

The turnout was massively higher than May Day last year but smaller than the biggest protests seen against the pension reform this year.

(with AFP)

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