Third day of protests, clashes grips France amid travel woes
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.
An anti-riot police officer fends off protesters during a demonstration against pension reform Saturday in Nantes, western France. The nationwide protests began Thursday.