Protesters opposing President Emmanuel Macron’s unpopular plan to raise the retirement age to 64 have marched in cities and towns across France in a final show of anger before a decision on whether the measure meets constitutional standards.
In Paris, as thousands marched along the designated protest route on Thursday, some protesters holding lit flares veered off to the Constitutional Council, which is to decide on Friday whether to nix any or all parts of the legislation
They faced off with a large contingent of police deployed outside the building, where hours before the march got under way, other protesters had dumped bags of rubbish.
The rubbish piles were cleaned up but signalled the start of a new strike by rubbish collectors, timed to begin with the nationwide protest marches. A previous strike last month left the streets of the French capital filled for days with mounds of reeking refuse.
Thousands also marched in Toulouse, Marseille and elsewhere. Tensions mounted at protests in Brittany, notably in Nantes and Rennes, where a car was burned.
In Paris banks and expensive stores secured their front windows with wooden boards but nevertheless, demonstrators broke into the headquarters of the French luxury group LVMH and set off firecrackers. The authorities deployed 11,500 police officers, 4,200 of them in Paris alone.
Eight unions have organised protests since January in a rare voice of unity. Student unions have joined in.
Macron had initially refused a demand to meet the unions, but during a state visit on Wednesday to the Netherlands, he proposed “an exchange” to discuss the follow-up to the Constitutional Council decision. There was no formal response to his offer.
Critics have challenged the government’s choice to include the pension plan in a budget bill, which significantly accelerated the legislative process.