Macron in the hot seat as hundreds injured in ongoing protests
More than 450 were arrested on Thursday during the most violent day of protests since the beginning of the year against the reforms bill.
French President Emanual Macron was under pressure on Friday following the violent protests, which left over 400 security forces injured while tear gas and smoke shrouded the center of major cities.
More than 450 were arrested on Thursday during the most violent day of protests since the beginning of the year against the reforms bill to raise the retirement age to 64.
The French presidency announced Friday that King Charles III's visit next week had been postponed after unions declared fresh strikes and protests on Tuesday, during what would have been the British monarch's trip.
"Given the announcement yesterday of another national day of protests against pension reform on Tuesday, March 28, the visit of Charles III, initially scheduled from 26-28 March, has been postponed," it said.
The decision was "in order to be able to welcome His Majesty King Charles III in conditions which reflect our friendly relations," it added.
France is on fire
Over 900 fires were lit around Paris on Thursday, said Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin.
Protesters set fire to the entrance of city hall in Bordeaux as they raised fears for the whole building. Firefighters late arrived to extinguish the fire.
The streets of Paris are on fire: protests over pension reform are underway in France.— Mikhail Kulakov (@mikkulakov) March 17, 2023
Protesters burn fences and demand the resignation of French President Emmanuel Macron. pic.twitter.com/1IyCVUiiTA
"Why would you make a target of our communal building, of all people of Bordeaux? I can only condemn it in the strongest possible terms," the mayor of Bordeaux, Pierre Hurmic, told RTL radio on Friday.
Around 3.5 million marchers
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.
"There were a lot of demonstrations and some of them turned violent, notably in Paris," Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told the CNews channel, as he provided information and figures for the number of arrested and injured people during the protests.
A hardliner in Macron's centrist government, Darmanin, dismissed calls from political opponents and protesters who asked to withdraw the pensions reform.
"I don't think we should withdraw this law because of violence," he said.
"If so, that means there's no state. We should accept a democratic, social debate, but not a violent debate."
Turnout in the protests on Thursday was higher than that of last week in Paris.
Macron decided that he will not back down from his decisions in a television interview on Wednesday.
"There's the substance -- the reform of the pension system -- and then there's the other issue of how democracy functions," 21-year-old student Judicael Juge told AFP during the protests.
The situation 'stinks'
"I think that is more of a source of anger now than the substance."
People are questioning how the situation will end, especially since it came four years after the "Yellow Vest" anti-government demonstrations took place.
"No one knows where the way out lies. There's not an easy one," political scientist Bastien Francois from the Sorbonne University in Paris told AFP.
Laurent Berger, leader of the moderate CFDT union, said on Friday that he has contacted an aide to the president in order to suggest pausing the implementation of the new bill for six months.
"It's the moment to say 'listen, let's put things on pause, let's wait six months'," Berger told RTL radio. "It would calm things down."
The garbage piled up on the streets of Paris due to the continuous strike by garbage collectors as blockades of oil refineries by striking workers are beginning to create fuel shortages all around France.
More flights were canceled this weekend as the ministry of energy transition warned that kerosene supply to the capital and its airports was becoming "critical".
Clashes took place between the police and the protesters in Lille, Nantes, Rennes, and Toulouse.
King Charles III to reschedule France visit
Macron requested that King Charles III's visit to France be postponed, according to the UK government on Friday since France is undergoing massive protests.
"This decision was taken with the consent of all parties after the President of France asked the British Government to postpone the visit," a UK government spokesperson said in a statement.
Royal officials expressed Charles' excitement to visit France at any early convenience, a statement said, with Macron later setting new date for the King's visit in "early summer".
However, the postponement will be a major embarrassment to Macron, who had hoped the monarch's visit would mark a symbolic step in the two countries' efforts to turn a page after years of poor relations post-Brexit.