Paris is being shaken by a second day of protests this evening as rioters clash with police during demonstrations against President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial pension reforms.
French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin told radio station RTL on Friday that 310 people were arrested overnight, most of them in Paris, after protests on Thursday were marred by violence.
Police had used a water cannon to clear thousands from the Place de Concorde.
Protesters this evening gathered at the public square, with pictures emerging of them huddled around a fire with a cardboard effigy of the French President raised precariously above the flames to chants of ‘Macron, Resign!’ The cutout was later shown after it had been ignited.
Reuters TV broadcast images of tear gas being used by police to deal with crowd disorder at the Place de Concorde this evening. A water cannon vehicle was also pictured there as tensions over the reforms reach melting point.
A protester holds a cut-out depicting French President Emmanuel Macron near fire during a demonstration on Place de la Concorde on March 17, 2023
A poster depicting French President Macron burns as protesters set fire to construction equipments at Concorde square as people gather near the National Assembly to protest against the pension reform law in Paris, France, 17 March 2023
Police officers stand guard during a demonstration on Place de la Concorde on March 17, 2023
Police use water cannon towards a wooden cable reel drum during a demonstration on Place de la Concorde in Paris on March 17
An AFP image shows water being sprayed as protesters roll a large wooden cable reel beside a fire at the public square.
Lines of riot police could also be seen blocking the path leading from the Place de la Concorde to the National Assembly, home to the lower house of the bicameral French Parliament.
French opposition lawmakers have filed a no confidence motion against Macron’s government after the controversial bill to raise the retirement age was forced through parliament without a vote.
‘The motion will allow us to get out on top of a deep political crisis’, Bertrand Pancher, the head of a left-wing independent parliamentary group that co-signed the motion said.
Fury has quickly spread across the streets of Paris as angry protesters disrupted traffic and set cars and barricades ablaze following the bill being forced through parliament.
Demonstrators have also disrupted rubbish collection and university campuses as opponents of the change maintain their resolve to get the government to back down.
Several cars were torched in Paris and other French cities in the evening during demonstrations involving several thousand people. Trade unions mobilised workers to briefly block a Paris ring road.
Angry critics, political opponents and labor unions around France all blasted President Emmanuel Macron‘s for his decision to ram the bill raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 through the legislature.
The formal no confidence vote will likely take place early next week.
CGT unionists march with flares and banners on the ring road in Paris on March 17, 2023
A police water cannon vehicle is stationed along side police vehicles as people begin to gather for a demonstration on Place de la Concorde in Paris on March 17, 2023
Protesters gathered at the Place de la Concorde this evening. They were seen huddled around a fire
The capital is braced for a night of violence as tensions over the pension reforms reach melting point
A protester attends a demonstration on Place de la Concord on March 17, 2023
Riot police block the Pont de la Concorde leading from the Place de la Concorde to National Assembly, home to the lower house of the bicameral French Parliament, in Paris on March 17, 2023
Riot police vehicles at the Pont de la Concorde on the evening of March 17, 2023
A pedestrian walks past full waste bins in Paris’ 2nd district as rubbish collectors strike against pension reforms, leaving many streets in the capital piled with stinking waste on March 17, 2023
Macron ordered Borne on Thursday to wield a special constitutional power to push the highly unpopular pension bill through without a vote in the National Assembly, France’s lower house of parliament.
His calculated risk infuriated opposition lawmakers, many citizens and unions.
The French are deeply attached to keeping the official retirement age at 62, which is among the lowest in European countries.
More than eight out of 10 people are unhappy with the government’s decision to skip a vote in parliament, and 65 per cent want strikes and protests to continue, a Toluna Harris Interactive poll for RTL radio showed.
On Thursday, thousands gathered in protest Thursday at the Place de la Concorde, which faces the National Assembly building.
As night fell, police officers charged the demonstrators in waves to clear the Place.
Small groups then moved through nearby streets in the chic Champs-Elysees neighborhood, setting street fires.
Similar scenes repeated themselves in numerous other cities, from Rennes and Nantes in eastern France to Lyon and the southern port city of Marseille, where shop windows and bank fronts were smashed, local French media reported.
Fury has spread across the streets of Paris as police clash with protesters after a controversial bill to raise the retirement age was forced through parliament without a vote
Physical fights have broken out between protesters in the capital city
A barricade burns as protesters block the traffic on Paris’ peripheral boulevard in the morning hours to distribute flyers against the French government’s pension reform
Rubbish has piled up on the street in Paris’ 5th district, as rubbish collectors strike against pension reforms , leaving many streets in the capital piled with waste
People wave General Confederation of Labour unions (CGT) flags as they block the traffic on Paris’ peripheral boulevard
Firefighters intervene to stop the fire to start in full waste bins as rubbish collectors strike against pension reforms
A cyclist drives past full waste bins in Paris’ 2nd district as rubbish collectors strike against pension reforms leaving many streets in the capital piled with stinking waste
The Eiffel Tower is seen while protesters set fire as clashes take place with riot police during a demonstration against French government’s plan to raise the legal retirement age
Protesters set fire as clashes take place with riot police during a demonstration against plans to raise the retirement age
The trade unions that had organized strikes and marches against a higher retirement age said more rallies and protest marches would take place in the days ahead.
‘This retirement reform is brutal, unjust, unjustified for the world of workers,’ they declared.
Macron has made the proposed pension changes the key priority of his second term, arguing that reform is needed to make the French economy more competitive and to keep the pension system from diving into deficit. France, like many richer nations, faces lower birth rates and longer life expectancy.
Macron decided to invoke the special power during a Cabinet meeting a few minutes before a scheduled vote in the National Assembly, where the legislation had no guarantee of securing majority support. The Senate adopted the bill earlier Thursday.
Demonstration in Paris take place at Place de la Concorde, following the use of Article 49.3 to validate the government’s pension reform
Protestors chant against the French Government during demonstrations at Place de la Concorde
Clashes take place during a demonstration against French government’s plan to raise the legal retirement age in Paris
Protesters participate in a demonstration against French government’s plan to raise the legal retirement age
Protesters set fire as clashes take place with riot police during a demonstration
Riot police advance as clashes take place during a demonstration in Paris last night
CGT unionists light flares on the ring road as they block the traffic to protest
Opposition lawmakers demanded the government to step down. If the expected no confidence motion passes, which requires approval from more than half of the Assembly, it would be a first since 1962 and force the government to resign. It would also spell the end Macron’s retirement reform plan.
Macron could reappoint Borne if he chooses, and a new Cabinet would be named. If the motion does not succeed, the pension bill would be considered adopted.
Addressing the protests, hard-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon said: ‘Something fundamental happened, and that is that, immediately, spontaneous mobilisations took place throughout the country.’
‘It goes without saying that I encourage them, I think that’s where it’s happening.’
Q&A: Protests over France’s pension reforms
What are France’s pension reforms?
The new retirement age will be 64, rising by two years from the current age of 62. But the change will be gradual at first. From September, the retirement age will increase by three months each year until 2030.
What about current pensioners?
Just 33 per cent of 60 to 64-year-olds are employed in France. This is significantly lower than in Germany at 61 per cent and Sweden at 69 per cent.
Through the new law, an additional €17.7 billion will be made in pension contributions (£15.5 billion) each year. The government says this will allow pensions for the poorest 30 per cent of the country to increase from 2.5 to five per cent.
What do critics of the new pension age say?
A number of France’s trade unions say only a small increase in contributions would be enough. They have called the new retirement age unfair – particularly to low-skilled workers in manual jobs who start their work earlier than someone with a degree would.
What do people think about the reforms?
Protests and demonstrations have been ongoing for months. On January 31, the biggest day of national protests, 1.27 million people are estimated to have taken to the street.
Unions have also warned of more strikes to come.