France in flames: 3.5mln anti-pension reforms protesters flood streets
Al Mayadeen correspondent says that Paris witnessed violent clashes between protesters and police while widespread destruction to public and private property was recorded.
Some 3.5 million people took to the streets across France to protest against the government's pension reform plan introduced by French President Emmanuel Macron, the country's major CGT union said on Thursday.
The Ministry of Interior however claimed that the demonstrations, which are now witnessing their ninth day, were limited to 1.8 million people.
In Paris, where the General Labor Union (CGT) announced the participation of 800,000 people, compared to 119,000 according to the Ministry of the Interior, violent clashes between protesters and security forces were recorded.
Al Mayadeen correspondent reported that the unions decided to continue the protests and set next Tuesday as a new date for the nationwide demonstrations.
On March 16, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne announced the adoption of the law extending the retirement age in France from 62 to 64 years old by the government without a vote in the parliament. The lower house's chairwoman, Yael Braun-Pivet, declared that "the law is regarded adopted from this point forward."
Following the decision, on March 20 the government narrowly survived a no-confidence motion, but the outrage has initiated the biggest domestic crisis of Macron's second term.
Violence on the streets of Paris
Hundreds of demonstrators - dressed in black - hurled Molotov cocktails at security forces and targeted them with firecrackers, in addition to vandalizing public property, burning waste containers, and attacking bus stops, while police officers attempted to disperse them using gas canister grenades, AFP reported.
Some 12,000 police, including 5,000 in Paris, were to be deployed during the day, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin highlighted.
Early Thursday, protesters blocked road access to Terminal 1 at the capital's Charles de Gaulle airport, as seen on French TV.
Half of all high-speed trains were canceled, national railway operator SNCF indicated after union sources reported around a third of staff would be going on strike. At least half of the trains into Paris from the suburbs were not running as well.
Paris municipal garbage collectors have pledged to uphold a rolling strike until Monday, as thousands of tonnes of rubbish remain in the streets.
The French interior ministry announced in a statement, that "123 law enforcement individuals and policemen were injured, and 80 people were arrested during the demonstrations."
The Eiffel tower closes its doors
several tourist sites in Paris and its suburbs have been closed due to the massive protests, including the Eiffel Tower and the Palace of Versailles. Among the Parisian landmarks that also refused to receive visitors is the Arc de Triomphe at the top of the Champs-Elysées.