France: Enormous demonstrations

Tensions rise in Paris protests on Labor Day, police arrest 68 people

Trade union says 2.3M people protested in France, Interior Ministry counts 782,000 protesters

Nur Asena Erturk
May 1, 2023

Tensions rose Monday in Paris and other cities of France during anti-pension reform protests on Labor Day.

Workers and trade unions in France took to the streets on Labor Day to protest the government’s pension reform.

Workers’ outrage over the government’s pension reform has not subsided since January, with trade unions vowing to hold another day of mass mobilization on Labor Day across France.

People early in the morning started to gather in the cities of Nantes, Lyon, Marseille, and Strasbourg, and a rally began in the afternoon in Paris, French daily Le Figaro reported.

Police arrested around 200 people, including 68 in Paris, and used tear gas on protesters, the daily also said.

Tensions rose between police and protesters in Nantes and Paris rallies, and police officers beat protesters in the capital, according to local media.

The protesters smashed shops’ windows, street furniture was vandalized, and dumpsters were set on fire, according to an Anadolu correspondent on the ground.

At least 10 police officers were hospitalized after they were injured, Le Figaro said, and clashes continued although the march ended.

A building was also set on fire at Place de la Nation square, and police used water cannon to extinct it, the same source said.

The General Confederation of Labor counted 2.3 million protesters nationwide, including 550,000 in Paris, local broadcaster BFMTV reported.

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According to the Interior Ministry figures, 782,000 people protested across the country, including 112,000 in the capital, BFMTV added.

Pension reform law​​​​​​​

President Emmanuel Macron signed the pension reform into law late on April 14 after the Constitutional Council completed its review, despite demands from trade unions to drop the measure that has triggered weeks of protests.

The law will raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030, requiring at least 43 years of service to be eligible for a full pension.

The government unveiled the proposal in January and it was taken up for a parliamentary debate the following month even as millions took to the streets to oppose it.

Unrest intensified when Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, after consulting with Macron, decided to use special constitutional powers to adopt the bill without parliamentary approval in March.

The decision was motivated by concerns that lawmakers would be able to stymie the reforms because the government lacked an absolute majority in parliament.

The law is set to go into effect on Sept. 1.​​​​​​​

*Umit Donmez in Paris contributed to this story.

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