Protests have broken out across the city of Paris in response to French President Emmanuel Macron raising the retirement age by two years on Thursday, a controversial decision that sidestepped a vote that was scheduled to occur just minutes later in the National Assembly.
Macron and his proponents argue that the reform, which raised the retirement age from 62 to 64, was necessary to save the country’s pension system from going bankrupt. France’s lower house of parliament was scheduled to vote on the reform, but Macron invoked Article 49.3, a constitutional provision that allows the measure to be pushed through without a parliamentary vote.
The debate mimics an ongoing discussion in the United States as analysts predict that the country’s Social Security program could become insolvent by the middle of the next decade. However, any suggestions to the pension system, including raising the age requirement to access its benefits, have been met with hard scrutiny.
Videos began circulating on Twitter Thursday evening of protesters clashing with Parisian police forces in response to Macron’s decision. French broadcaster BFMTV posted a compilation of videos taken in the Place de la Concorde—a plaza in Paris adjacent to the National Assembly building—that captured several fires ignited in the protests.
Another video posted by the Trades Union Congress, a union federation based in the United Kingdom, shows a large mass of people gathered at the plaza, with fires dispersed throughout the crowd.
According to a report from British broadcaster Sky News, Macron’s decision also elicited protests within the French parliament, including some politicians singing the French national anthem and holding plaques reading: “No to 64 years.”
The report from Sky News also captured police dressed in riot gear tossing what they labeled as tear gas toward the rioters. Another video from the broadcaster showed police charging at the crowd gathered at Place de la Concorde.
Preliminary reports say that at least 120 demonstrators were arrested Thursday night, according to a report from France Bleu.
In the U.S., some GOP-proposed reforms have included raising the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare from 67 to 70. At the moment, any citizen born after 1960 is entitled to full retirement benefits at age 67.
Meanwhile, Democratic leaders, including President Joe Biden, have accused the GOP of wanting to slash Social Security in its entirety. The topic is shaping up to be a potential defining issue in the 2024 presidential election, with some candidates like Republican Nikki Haley proposing an older age of retirement.
Newsweek has contacted the French Embassy to the U.S. via email for comment.
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