Nearly 1 million demonstrators poured into the streets across France Saturday, to protest the government’s pension reform plans, which would include raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.
In Paris, police clashed with demonstrators and lobbed tear-gas during a fourth day of national protests, as union organizers hoped to exceed the mass turnout on Jan. 19 when more than a million people took to the streets during a day of national strikes that resulted in school and transportation shutdowns.
Early estimates suggested that numbers of protestors in Paris had already increased by more than 20 percent since a similar demonstration in the capital on Tuesday, according to Le Figaro.
The French Interior Ministry said that 963,000 people took part in demonstrations across the country, BFM reported.
The largely peaceful demonstration in Paris was marred as garbage bins and a vehicle were set on fire by more radical protestors. Police used stun grenades as well as teargas to keep protestors in line, according to reports. At least eight people were people were arrested, BFM reported.
Fires were also set in the southwestern city of Rennes, where about 35,000 demonstrators clashed with police, who turned a water cannon and tear gas on the crowd.
Protestors said they were frustrated with President Emanuel Macron’s proposed reforms. In Marseilles, an inflatable doll, with the image of Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne hung in effigy amid the demonstration. Tensions were also high in Nantes and Lyon.
In a joint statement ahead of Saturday’s marches, all the main unions called for the government to withdraw the bill proposing the increase in the retirement age. They warned that they would seek to bring France to a standstill from March 7 if their demands were not met.
A strike is already scheduled for Feb. 16.
“If they’re not able to listen to what’s happening on the streets, and are not able to realize what is happening with the people, well they shouldn’t be surprised that it blows up at some point,” Delphine Maisonneuve, a 43-year-old nurse told Reuters as a protest in Paris got underway Saturday.
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