Organisers of large-scale protests across France today are hoping to attract a million people to join them in voicing their fury over pension reforms.
Like in many countries, marches and demonstrations for workers’ rights are a May Day tradition in France.
However, today’s gatherings are expected to be particularly significant, as they mark the 13th day of mobilisation against a controversial bill raising the pension age from 62 to 64.
The move, which President Emmanuel Macron argued was necessary to curtail the effects of an aging population, sparked anger from French workers and resulted in dramatic protests on the streets of cities including Paris and Bordeaux.
Their rage was fuelled by Macron’s decision to push the legislation through parliament without a vote using a measure named Article 49.3.
Laurent Berger, the head of the country’s largest trade union the CFDT, was optimistic about the possible turnout for the May Day protests.
Yesterday, he said: ‘I think we’ll see hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, perhaps 1 million or 1.5 million.’
French authorities are believed to be expecting between 500,000 and 650,000 protesters, with up to 100,000 in Paris alone.
France24 reported that a court granted permission to the Parisian police to use drones during the marches today, after an appeal by NGOs and lawyers’ unions.
In scenes reminiscent of the hours and days following the passing of the pension reforms, riot police could be seen making their way past large fires as they pushed their way down streets.
Officers fired tear gas at demonstrators in Paris, Lyon and Nantes as the crowds threw projectiles towards them.
One protester held up a sign describing Macron as the ‘robber of the poor’, while another group held up a large banner reading: ‘Abolition everywhere: of borders, of the police and of work.’
Activists from Extinction Rebellion have also been involved in the demonstrations today, targeting the Parisian cultural centre the Louis Vuitton Foundation by spraying it with orange paint.
The centre is funded by luxury goods company LVMH, owned by the world’s richest man Bernard Arnault.
Opinion polls show Macron’s popularity is at its lowest point in more than four years after pushing through the pension age increase on March 20.
The wave of violence and anger that followed led King Charles to postpone a trip to France, which was due to be his first foreign visit as monarch.
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