Bordeaux, France – The town hall of Bordeaux, a historic building in the southwest city, was set on fire on Thursday evening by protesters who opposed President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform plan. The fire was quickly extinguished by firefighters, but the wooden door was destroyed.
The incident was one of many violent clashes that erupted across France on Thursday, as more than a million people took to the streets to demonstrate against the government’s proposal to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. The protests were the ninth day of nationwide action since December, and the largest since January.
In Paris, police fired tear gas and arrested 80 people as some masked rioters smashed shop windows, attacked a McDonald’s restaurant and threw objects and fireworks at officers. One police officer who lost consciousness was dragged to safety by fellow officers. A young woman in Rouen lost her thumb after she was hit by a so-called “flash-ball” grenade fired by police.
The protesters, who included workers from various sectors such as transport, education, health and culture, said they were determined to make Macron withdraw his reform plan, which they say will reduce their pensions and force them to work longer. They also accused the president of ignoring their demands and bypassing parliament by using a special decree to push through his bill without a vote on Wednesday.
The unions that organised the protests called for new strikes and demonstrations on Tuesday, coinciding with a visit by King Charles III of Britain to Bordeaux. They said they hoped to show their discontent to the British monarch, who is expected to discuss trade and security issues with Macron.
Macron has defended his pension reform as necessary to ensure the financial sustainability of the system and to simplify its complex rules. He has also said he is open to dialogue and compromise with the unions, but has refused to back down on the main points of his plan.
The pension reform has sparked the longest transport strike in France’s history, which lasted for 46 days and disrupted millions of commuters and travellers. The strike has largely ended, but some workers are still taking sporadic action. The government says it hopes to pass its pension bill by summer.