France: protests escalate, inner cities are on fire, more than a hundred police officers injured

In France, more than a million people took to the streets on Thursday to protest President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms. Violent riots broke out in Paris and other cities, which are still going on in many places. Buildings are said to have been set on fire during the protests.

The situation in many French cities has escalated in the wake of protests against pension reforms. On Thursday evening, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin announced that 172 arrests had been made on the sidelines of the rallies, 117 of them in Paris alone. The French Interior Ministry had previously announced that 123 gendarmes and police officers had been injured and 80 people arrested in France.

The protesters set up barricades and set them on fire, and flames also spread to buildings. The situation in Paris’s 11th district has escalated in particular. Journalists from Paris reported numerous blazing fires as the demonstrators dispersed in small groups through the capital. The facades of some buildings have been damaged by the fire.

The situation is similar in other cities. Shortly after 9 p.m., the facade of the Bordeaux town hall was set on fire on the fringes of a demonstration.

The events are recorded on numerous videos and shared on social media. One of the videos shows protesters applauding a fire brigade commando.

In view of the particularly acute situation in the 11th arrondissement of Paris, a speech by the French interior minister to the nation was announced for this evening. About 3.5 million people took to the streets across the country on Thursday, according to union figures, while authorities counted 1.08 million.

A total of 1,500 demonstrations took place in cities such as Marseille, Lyon, Lille and Paris. There were road blockades, dockworker protests, university buildings barricaded, train station raids, emergency protests and power outages attributed to striking power plant workers.

“The best answer we can give the president is that millions of people are on strike and on the streets,” Philippe Martinez, leader of the left-wing CGT union, told reporters the day before. “The government is afraid that more and more people will participate,” a woman told the British Guardians. “Democracy is denied.” She continued:

Macron sees himself as a kind of king, a kind of Jupiter looking down on us from high above. We have to hold on until he listens to us.

With the big general strike, union leaders are reacting to a speech by French President Emmanuel Macron, in which he assured on Wednesday that he wanted to stick to the plans to raise the retirement age despite the protests. He also rejected the demands of the trade unions and opposition parties that he should “take account of the growing anger of the people”.

Critics then attacked Macron for his statements, describing him as “smug”, “unworldly” and “insulting”. The president’s comments on Wednesday were his first since the government pushed through reform to gradually raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 against two no-confidence motions last week. Since then, some of the protests in France have become more radical. In addition to the announced demonstrations, some trade unions had called for spontaneous, unannounced protest actions.

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