French Pension Reform Bill Sparks Protests

By Julian Home — Correspondent

French President Emanuel Macron’s pension reform bill has sparked nationwide protests for the past two weeks. 

The bill raises the retirement age in France from 62 to 64, which Macron says will help compensate for the growing number of retirees and a lower number of active workers. Police forces were summoned to the capital city of France, Paris, where a record 1.3 million protesters were recorded. One of the more notable strikes was a garbage collector walkout, which left the streets of Paris covered with trash. Other forms of protest include many incidents of arson and major airport blockages. 

“If we want to avoid tensions — and I want to avoid them — what the trade unions are proposing is a gesture to calm things down,” said union leader Laurent Berger.

Interior Minister of France Gérald Darmanin says that the protests weren’t an attack on the pension reform bill. “They [protesters] come to destroy, to injure and to kill police officers and gendarmes. Their goals have nothing to do with the pension reform. Their goals are to destabilize our republican institutions and bring blood and fire down on France,” he said. 

Protestors, human rights advocates, and some of Macron’s political opponents have filed complaints about the methods police are using to sedate protests. “What adds fuel to the fire is the behavior of the government, the police violence in particular,” said protestor Lucy Henry.

Railway workers outside Gare de Lyon held a banner that read, “The police mutilates. We don’t forgive!”

Protestors have attacked many attractions throughout the nation over the past weeks, such as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum, which were both strikebound. French government spokesperson Oliver Veran says this has been a major threat to tourism around France. “I don’t want people to think that France is not capable of welcoming tourists. People both here and abroad shouldn’t worry, despite the protests and strikes, life goes on as normal, as French people living here can clearly see,” he said.

Clément Saild, a train passenger at Paris’ Gare de Lyon, said that he supports the strikes even though they interfere with transportation. “I’m 26, and I wonder if I will ever retire,” he said. 

Yet not all Parisians are satisfied with the strikes. Passenger Helene Cogan disagreed with Salid. “French people are stubborn and things are getting out of hand,” she said.

Protestors propelled rocks and fireworks at police forces, while the police fought back with tear gas. Claire Hédon, the French Defender of Rights, says that she wants a de-escalation of violence during the protests. “I condemn any act of violence, and I have a thought for all the victims, whether they are the demonstrators or the security forces,” she said. 

“The use of force can only be done if necessary, and in a proportionate manner. I am very worried about what I observe in the escalation of violence. And we will need a de-escalation. It is the responsibility of the state,” she added.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s