Fears of violence emerge after apparent protest split in France
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.