Scattered protests in France continued Friday, following Thursday’s mass demonstrations over nationwide opposition to President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial pension reform bill. UK King Charles III also cancelled his scheduled visit to France on March 26 early Friday morning. Macron stated in a news conference that the visit “would have prompted incidents” he characterized as “detestable.”
National trade union federation CGT stated that 3.5 million protestors took to the streets across France Thursday to voice their discontent with the reform bill. The bill is set to raise the country’s retirement age from 62 to 64. Macron narrowly survived a vote of no confidence in Parliament following his decision to “force through” the measure without a parliamentary vote.
While the majority of protests have been peaceful, police and demonstrators clashed as protests stretched into the night Thursday, and the Bordeaux town hall was briefly set ablaze before firefighters extinguished the fire. French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin claimed that 441 police and gendarmes were injured, with 457 people arrested across France. He insisted that violence stemmed from “far-left thugs,” while media outlets reported police using tear gas, batons and water cannons to control protestors.
Labor unions have called for regional protests to continue through the weekend, with national protests set to resume on March 28. The labor unions argue that responsibility for escalating the protests lies with the government, with a recent poll indicating that 61 percent of French citizens feel that Macron’s response to the protestors will provoke more anger.