Hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated in France on May 1 against President Emmanuel Macron's controversial pension reform, which often led to riots. There were arrests and injuries in Paris and other major cities, and the police used tear gas. Demonstrators set fire to cars and garbage cans, and smashed windows from banks and shops. The unions had called for more than 300 rallies in large cities and smaller towns. Authorities expected 500,000 to 650,000 participants nationwide. Up to 100,000 demonstrators were expected in Paris alone.
The police had prepared for feared riots. The first clashes and 30 arrests broke out in Paris in the afternoon. A police officer was hit by an incendiary device and seriously injured, the broadcaster France Info reported. There was also property damage and arson in Lyon. Riots were also reported from Nantes, the police used tear gas. In the capital and other major cities, the police used drones to monitor the situation for the first time.
Pressed through with special paragraphs
The last nationwide protests against the pension reform took place two weeks ago, after Macron officially raised the retirement age from 62 to 64. The fact that the government pushed through the reform without a vote in parliament, using a special paragraph, also causes resentment. Rallies on May Day in France usually gather between 100,000 and 160,000 people across the country. Now, however, the trade unions had declared May 1st to be another day of protest against the president's reform.
Macron's center government would like to see the pension reform that has now been decided as over, but the unions and parts of the opposition are continuing to protest to prevent its implementation from September 1st.
The question now is whether the May Day demonstrations will be the last major rallies against pension reforms. The number of participants had already been declining beforehand, and there are also signs that the common front of the trade unions is breaking up. For the first time in years, the major trade unions had joined forces in the fight against the reform. However, when it comes to the question of whether and when to go back to the government's offers for dialogue, a different course is emerging.
Macron's government wants other issues quickly
Macron and his government are hoping to calm the situation and want to move on to other issues as quickly as possible. In order to regain more trust among the population, Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne presented a 100-day program with improvement steps in areas such as education, health and internal security on Wednesday. As with the pension reform, the government is in a bind, having lost an absolute majority in parliament since last summer's elections. Borne therefore postponed a new migration law until the fall.