Fears of vi­o­lence emerge af­ter ap­par­ent protest split in France

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NATION & WORLD -

PARIS — A French govern­ment min­is­ter warned that sedi­tious groups bent on vi­o­lence were hi­jack­ing the protest move­ment against pen­sion re­form that has gripped the coun­try, af­ter a fire Sat­ur­day dam­aged a Paris restau­rant pa­tron­ized by Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron.

The fire ser­vice said the pre-dawn blaze that singed a cor­ner of the La Ro­tonde eatery was quickly ex­tin­guished. The Paris prose­cu­tor’s of­fice launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion to de­ter­mine the cause of the fire.

Mar­lene Schi­appa, the govern­ment’s sec­re­tary of state for equal­ity, de­scribed a cli­mate in France “of hate and of vi­o­lence that is quite in­cred­i­ble,” cit­ing the restau­rant fire among a list of ex­am­ples.

Af­ter six weeks of la­bor strikes and na­tion­wide protests against govern­ment plans to over­haul France’s pen­sion sys­tem, there are mount­ing signs of splits within the move­ment. As some strik­ers re­turn to work and train ser­vices that have been se­verely dis­rupted by walk­outs see notable im­prove­ments, more rad­i­cal pro­test­ers are try­ing to keep the move­ment go­ing.

A march through Paris ended af­ter dark Sat­ur­day with po­lice fir­ing tear gas and us­ing a wa­ter can­non to push back crowds that wouldn’t dis­perse.

Macron was a tar­get of pro­test­ers Fri­day night. Dozens of pro­test­ers con­verged on a the­ater where Macron was watch­ing an evening per­for­mance with his wife. Video showed pro­test­ers chant­ing “Macron re­sign” and some en­ter­ing a door as po­lice tried to hold them back.

A black car re­ported to be car­ry­ing Macron then sped away un­der a hail of boos.

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