Third day of protests, clashes grips France amid travel woes

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - NATION & WORLD -

PARIS — Paris po­lice skir­mished Satur­day with yel­low vest ac­tivists who joined a wave of protests against the gov­ern­ment’s over­haul of France’s re­tire­ment sys­tem, as high­way block­ades and train stop­pages by other protesters dis­rupted week­end travel around the coun­try.

A few thou­sand yel­low vest protesters marched from the Fi­nance Min­istry com­plex on the Seine River through south­east Paris, push­ing their year-old de­mands for eco­nomic fair­ness — and adding the re­tire­ment re­form to their list of griev­ances. Most marchers were peace­ful but some threw pro­jec­tiles or pushed riot of­fi­cers, prompt­ing re­peated bursts of tear gas from po­lice.

The marchers ap­pear to be em­bold­ened by the big­gest na­tional demon­stra­tions in years Thurs­day that kicked off a mass strike-and-protest move­ment against Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron’s re­design of the pen­sion sys­tem.

As the strikes en­tered a third day Satur­day, tourists and shop­pers faced shut­tered sub­way lines around Paris and near-empty train sta­tions.

Truck­ers strik­ing over a fuel tax hike dis­rupted traf­fic on high­ways from Provence in the south­east to Nor­mandy in the north­west. A sim­i­lar fuel tax is what un­leashed the yel­low vest move­ment a year ago, and this con­ver­gence of griev­ances could pose a ma­jor new threat to Macron’s pres­i­dency.

Macron says the re­form, which will stream­line a con­vo­luted sys­tem of 42 spe­cial pen­sion plans, will make the na­tional pen­sion sys­tem more fair and fi­nan­cially sus­tain­able. The gov­ern­ment says it won’t raise the of­fi­cial re­tire­ment age of 62, but the plan is ex­pected to in­clud­ing fi­nan­cial con­di­tions to en­cour­age peo­ple to work longer. Those most against the changes are work­ers in spe­cial cat­e­gories like trans­port who can now re­tire ear­lier than 62.

LOIC VENANCE/GETTY-AFP

An anti-riot po­lice of­fi­cer fends off protesters dur­ing a demon­stra­tion against pen­sion re­form Satur­day in Nantes, west­ern France. The na­tion­wide protests be­gan Thurs­day.

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