Macron crisis: Police fire tear gas on demonstrators in violent clashes over pension plans


EMMANUEL MACRON has come under increased pressure following the outbreak of violence on the streets of Paris over his government’s planned pension reforms, as police were forced to fire tear gas at protesters when the clashes became ugly.

The yellow vested demonstrators on Saturday joined a rally of several thousand people against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform, which has been disrupting schools, railroads and roads since the beginning of this month. The police were forced to shed tears near tourist hotspots such as the Centre Pompidou Museum of Modern Art, where some demonstrators tried to erect barricades and set them on fire, destroying even a bus stop. Demonstrators also gathered in the Place de la Bourse and the Gare du Nord train station in Paris, angrily waving posters with the face of Mr. Macron.

One of the signs read: “Macron, retreat is urgent!

Jerome Rodrigues, a prominent figure in the long-standing yellow vest movement that emerged as a counter-reaction to the high cost of living, suffered an injury to his eye, although it was not immediately clear how he could stand it.

Mr. Rodrigues was blinded earlier this year during a jagged pattern demonstration on the same eye.

France’s vast transportation network continued to be severely disrupted over the weekend, with the capital, Paris, being badly affected.

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According to the SNCF train authority, only six out of ten high-speed trains are running. The Eurostar from Paris to London operated four out of five trains.

Railroad and metro employees have so far insisted that they will continue to put pressure on Mr Macron as they try to force him to abandon his pension reform.

Laurent Djebali, a representative of the subway branch of the Unsa union, said when he joined the march: “We are prepared to hold out for quite a while longer.

Since the beginning of this month, the French unions have started a nationwide strike as an angry reaction to the president’s pension reform.

On Saturday, the strikes came into effect on the 24th day – longer than the infamous 22-day strike in the winter of 1995 under the late President Jacques Chirac against the social cuts that finally forced his government to make a huge about-turn.

Mr. Macron continued to praise his reform as promoting a fairer system that would encourage workers to stay in work until the age of 64 instead of 62 and balance the pension budget.

The unions are calling on Mr. Macron’s government to drop the plan to merge 42 existing pension schemes into a single, points-based system.

As a result of the revision, workers would lose early retirement benefits in a number of sectors.

Philippe Martinez, General Secretary of the CGT union, said during his visit to the picket lines at a bus station: “It is a strong movement and is still supported by public opinion.

He also launched a devastating attack on Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who said he did not want confrontation with the strikers and accused him of not standing by his word.

Mr. Martinez added: “The government is showing how upset it is about this way of conceiving social dialogue”.

But the paralyzing strikes throughout France are expected to continue until 2020, with talks between the unions and the government not resuming until January 7th, with major demonstrations planned two days later.

The country’s transportation network was also severely disrupted on Friday: only two driverless subway lines were in operation, and a total of five lines were shut down.

The SNCF stated that 8.5 percent of its employees were on strike, but 38.8 percent of drivers were not working.

The railroad authority warned that just over a third (35 percent) of the TGV lines would work on New Year’s Day and half on January 2.

Mr. Macron will still deliver his traditional New Year’s speech in France on December 31, with tens of millions of people attentively awaiting any sign of his government’s withdrawal from the pension reform.


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