Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) Violence erupted on the fringes of protests against the pension reform in France as rioters clashed with police in large cities.
Groups of rioters threw projectiles at police and set garbage on fire in Paris, with similar incidents breaking out in Bordeaux, Nantes, Rennes, and Toulouse, according to Reuters reporting on Tuesday.
The level of violence at protests on Tuesday was significantly lower compared to last week, with police interventions required only on fringes of otherwise peaceful marches.
Earlier on Tuesday, the government rejected unions’ demands to rethink the pension reform and union leaders called on the government to resolve the crisis. The Government rejected the possibility of rethinking the reform but noted that it is open to talks with unions on other topics.
Since the start of the year, more than one million French took part in protests and strikes to oppose the government’s plan, with protests intensifying after the government forced through the reform, bypassing the parliament.
According to police estimates, more than 90,000 people protested in Paris on Tuesday. Turnout was lower than the record-high 119,000 on 23 March but higher than it was at earlier protests against the pension reform.
Point of contention
French President Emmanuel Macron stressed that pension reform is necessary to stabilize the pension system, while unions and the opposition want a different solution.
Laurent Berger, head of the French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT), pointed out at the start of the protest in Paris that the union has “proposed a way out… and it’s intolerable that we are being stonewalled again.”
Opposition MP Charles de Courson expressed the belief that the government should learn from Israel, where the government put on hold its judicial reform due to protests.
On Monday, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin noted that authorities expect a “very serious risk to public order” at protests on Tuesday.
France’s aviation, energy, and transport sectors still face disruptions due to continued strikes, but waste collectors in Paris suspended their strike to clean up roads and around landmarks.
Union leaders noted that the rising cost of living is making it more difficult for workers to take part in industrial action.