French protesters occupy Black Rock’s Al Shula restaurant

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April 6, 2023 | 2:14 p.m


A fresh wave of unrest over pension reform swept Paris and other French cities on Thursday, as angry demonstrators occupied the building of US-based investment firm BlackRock and set fire to a popular restaurant favored by President Emmanuel Macron.

Dozens of trade union members poured into BlackRock’s Paris offices in the historic central building, setting off fireworks and chanting slogans directed at the company’s pension fund.

“The government wants to get rid of pensions, it wants to force people to finance their retirement from private pension funds, but what we know is that only the rich can benefit from such a setup,” said protester Fran├žoise Onique. School teacher.

BlackRock’s temporary occupation came on the 11th day of nationwide strikes and demonstrations denouncing Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 in an apparent effort to prevent France’s retirement system from collapsing.

Loudly chanting the favorite slogan of French anti-pension reform protesters, “On est la” (“We are here”), the demonstrators withdrew from the BlackRock building after about 30 minutes, leaving its lobby filled with smoke from pyrotechnics.

Dozens of railway workers occupied the offices of the American investment company BlackRock in Paris to protest pension reform.
AP
Riot police across France resorted to using tear gas to disperse protesters in the eleventh day of unrest.
Reuters
At least 20 demonstrators were arrested in Paris on Thursday after clashes with policemen.
AP

Another financial institution that angered the protesters was a branch of the Credit Agricole bank, which saw its windows smashed before police dispersed the mob’s trousers with tear gas.

Elsewhere in the French capital, protesters vented their anger at the Left Bank brasserie La Rotonde, where Macron hosted a celebratory dinner during the 2017 presidential election.

Protesters pelted the restaurant with stones, set its awnings on fire, and threw bottles and paint at policemen who arrived to quell the unrest.

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A riot police officer was briefly knocked unconscious by a pebble in the melee.

Protesters set fire to the awning of the Parisian restaurant La Rotonde, which in 2017 hosted President Emmanuel Macron’s gala dinner.
AP
Angry activists threw stones and paint at riot police.
AFP via Getty Images
Protesters set trash cans on fire to express their discontent with the raising of the national retirement age from 62 to 64.
Reuters

In the western city of Reims, police fired tear gas at demonstrators who clashed with them and set fire to trash cans while chanting “Strike, blockade, Macron go!”

Police also responded with tear gas in Lyon, where a Nespresso coffee shop was ransacked.

Pension reform, which has become the focus of Macron’s turbulent second term, has met widespread resistance, which intensified after a retirement age hike was pushed through the French parliament without a vote.

Prime Minister Elizabeth Borne met union leaders on Wednesday to try to break the impasse, but their talks stalled after just an hour without finding a solution.

Masked demonstrators carry inflatable ducks during a protest Thursday in Rennes, France.
Reuters
Demonstrators waving open umbrellas clashed with police in Nantes Thursday.
AP
A protester displays a poster of the General Confederation of French Workers (CGT) and a communist face mask, taking part in the 11th Labor Day in Montpellier, France.
AFP via Getty Images

Protesters said the only way out of the crisis was to scrap the unpopular pension reform – an option Bourne and Macron rejected.

“There is no other solution than to withdraw reform,” Sophie Binet, the new leader of the hardline CGT union, said at the start of the Paris rally.

Both the government and protesters are looking forward to the Constituent Assembly – France’s highest constitutional authority – to deliver its ruling on the pension bill on April 14.

Constitutional experts say the commission is unlikely to overturn the legislation, which could take the wind out of the protests that have raged in France since January.

The latest data suggests that the movement may be losing steam.

Macron has repeatedly ruled out reversing the deeply unpopular pension reform.
AP
The latest figures show that fewer people are taking part in protest days nationwide than before.
AFP via Getty Images
The unions said they are committed to continuing the protests until the government reviews the course of pension reform.
Reuters

The CGT union confirmed that around 400,000 people joined the protest in Paris on Thursday, down from 450,000 the previous week.

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Across France, the previous day of nationwide protest on March 28 drew smaller crowds than the previous day, with 740,000 taking part in strikes and rallies, according to the interior ministry.

Again on March 7, 1.28 million French citizens took part in the protests by blocking traffic, disrupting commerce and leaving their jobs.

with wire




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