Protesters opposing President Emmanuel Macron’s unpopular plan to raise the retirement age to 64 marched again Thursday in cities and towns around France, in a final show of anger before a crucial decision on whether the measure meets constitutional standards.
Demonstrators targeted the Central Bank offices in Paris and briefly invaded the headquarters of luxury conglomerate LVMH – but their attention increasingly centered on the Constitutional Council, which is to decide Friday whether to nix any or all parts of the legislation.
Activists dumped bags of garbage outside the council’s columned façade in the morning. Later, another crowd holding flares faced off with a large contingent of riot police that rushed to protect the building.
Paris police banned all gatherings outside the council from Thursday evening through Saturday morning, in an attempt to reduce pressure on the council members as they make their decision.
Police said some 380,000 people took part in the protests across France on Thursday. The number was down from recent weeks, but unions still managed to mobilise sizable crowds. The demonstrations were largely peaceful, though dozens of injuries were reported among police and protesters.
Unions had been hoping for a strong turnout Thursday to pressure both the government and the members of the Constitutional Council tasked with studying the text of the pension reform plan. Critics challenged the government’s choice to include the pension plan in a budget bill, which significantly accelerated the legislative process. The government’s decision to skirt a parliamentary vote by using special constitutional powers transformed opponents’ anger into fury.
The trash piles signaled the start of a new strike by garbage collectors, timed to begin with the nationwide protest marches. A previous strike last month left the streets of the French capital filled for days with mounds of reeking refuse.
Polls consistently show a majority of French people are opposed to the pension reform, which Macron says is needed to keep the retirement system afloat as the population ages. Protesters are also angry at Macron himself and a presidency they see as threatening France’s worker protections and favoring big business.