Over 1 mln protest against pension reform in France
PARIS, March 24: Over 1 million people in France joined nationwide protests on Thursday, rejecting the government's proposed pension reform bill that would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, French ministry of the interior said on Thursday evening.
However, France's largest union, the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) said that some 3.5 million people had taken part in the demonstration nationwide.
Thursday's events marked the 9th nationwide general mobilization action since French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne last week triggered an article of the constitution that allowed the government to force passage of the pension reform bill.
Fearing a wave of violent actions, the ministry of the interior on Thursday ordered deployment of 12,000 policemen across the country, including 5,000 in Paris.
While most of the demonstrations took place peacefully, calls by union leaders for non-violent protests were ignored by a number of demonstrators throughout the country who clashed with police forces, leaving at least 123 members of the security forces injured, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has said.
Eventually, the French police deployed tear gas and police dogs to disperse protestors.
The prime minister condemned on social media the "unacceptable" violence that had accompanied the pension reform protests.
Due to the strikes, operators were forced to close many of the historic monuments on Thursday, including the Palace of Versailles and the Eiffel Towel.
A dinner was scheduled in the Palace of Versailles between French President Emmanuel Macron and the United Kingdom's King Charles III during the latter's upcoming state visit, but the French presidential office said the venue would be changed due to security reasons.
The French national railway company SNCF and the country's aviation authorities have already announced the extension of Thursday's strike, which means the railway and air traffic will stay disrupted.
The sanitation workers in Paris have extended their strike until March 27, while some 9,500 tons of garbage are still waiting to be collected in the city.
And the trade unions have already scheduled the 10th general mobilization action for March 28.
Since two no-confidence motions against the French government failed to gain a majority in the National Assembly on Monday, the government's unpopular pension reform bill is considered as adopted without a vote in the lower house of parliament.
Macron said on Wednesday that his government's pension reform plan should become law "before the end of the year."
Under the reform plan, the legal retirement age would be progressively raised by three months a year from 62 to 64 by 2030, and a guaranteed minimum pension would be introduced. The plan also stipulates that as of 2027, at least 43 years of work would be required to be eligible for a full pension.