Over one million people participated in demonstrations against the pension reform bill across France, according to the French Interior Ministry, while unions give the estimate at over three million.
The Interior Ministry said 1.089 million demonstrators took to the streets in France on Thursday, March 23, double the number present at the previous manifestation on March 15; however, it was less than at the demonstrations on January 19, 31 and March 7, the French media reported. Then, the number of protesters reportedly amounted to around 1.2 million.
However, France’s largest union, CGT, reported that a record 3.5 million people took part in the protests across the whole country.
The Paris demonstrations gathered around 120,000 people, according to the police, while according to the union, 800,000 people participated.
Clashes between black bloc radicals and law enforcement officers broke out in the French capital during today’s protests. A Sputnik correspondent reported that the police used tear gas to disperse protesters who managed to reach the Place de la Republique, demanding the area be cleared through loudspeakers. A water cannon was also seen at the scene.
As of Thursday evening, 80 people were detained across France, and some 120 police officers were injured, French Interior Ministry said.
Workers in France shut it down so thoroughly that cars couldn’t come within half a mile of the Paris airport.
In response to the President forcing the retirement age up to 64, the people have dramatically increased their protests. pic.twitter.com/zekkgWR1rn
— More Perfect Union (@MorePerfectUS) March 24, 2023
Moreover, during a demonstration in the city of Rouen, a 40-year-old woman had her thumb blown off by a grenade, local media reported. Her injuries were seen to by medical workers. The report said the injured woman was a college teacher and had two children.
In the southwestern city of Bordeux protests and clashes saw fire engulf the front door of the city’s town hall building. Although it remained unclear who exactly ignited the flames, the blaze was later extinguished by officials.
The historic Bordeaux City Hall in France was set ablaze as protests raged across France against the government’s plans to raise the retirement age pic.twitter.com/h85mszTiDV
— TRT World (@trtworld) March 24, 2023
France’s leading unions announced that the 10th nationwide protest against the pension reform would take place on March 28, according to local TV.
Later in the day, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne commented on clashes between the demonstrators and police.
“The violence and damage we saw today are unacceptable. I am grateful to the police and emergency services that were mobilized,” Borne said on Twitter.
🔴 INFO – #Social : #ReformeDesRetraites : Gérald #Darmanin a fait état de "457 interpellations" et de "441 policiers et gendarmes blessés" hier en France, et de "903 feux de mobiliers urbains ou de poubelles" à #Paris lors de la manifestation intersyndicale. pic.twitter.com/ZGZorPAerl
— FranceNews24 (@FranceNews24) March 24, 2023
On March 16, Borne announced that the government had adopted a law on raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030 by invoking Article 49.3 of the constitution, which allowed the bill to get passed without parliamentary approval. The decision sparked a strong backlash, prompting people to take to the streets across the country.
The opposition tried to prevent the adoption of the law on Monday through a vote of no confidence in the French government, but failed to secure an absolute majority in the parliament twice.
There have been several nationwide strikes and hundreds of demonstrations in France within the last two months, with over 1 million people taking part in most of them. During the protests, clashes often broke out between the police and the protesters.