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Town Hall in France Set on Fire Amid Nationwide Protests

France protests
Protests in Le Mans, France, on March 23. Credit: Antoine Oury / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 4.0

On Thursday, Bordeaux’s town hall was set ablaze as protests continue across France over President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms.

More than one million people have demonstrated across the country against the government’s pension reforms, which would see the retirement age rise from 62 to 64. Basic services came to a standstill as workers in diverse sectors went on strike, with more planned to occur next week.

Some of the protests in France have turned violent, leading to clashes with riot police who used tear gas on demonstrators in Bordeaux. In Paris alone, over 110,000 people took to the streets to oppose the reforms. Although most of the rallies in the capital were peaceful, there were also incidents of baton charges and tear gas usage by police, and petrol bombs were thrown by protestors.

Bordeaux town hall set ablaze

On Thursday evening, the porch of the Bordeaux town hall was set alight amid the ongoing protests, although it is not clear who is responsible for the act of arson. Firefighters were able to quickly extinguish the blaze before it had a chance to spread.

King Charles III was scheduled to visit France early next week – a trip that would have included time spent in Bordeaux – however, the British monarch has now postponed the visit to France.

Despite French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin’s assurances that the protests would not pose a security threat, President Macron ultimately advised Charles III to delay his visit until after the unrest dies down.

Protests across France

More than a million people have marched in the streets across France to protest President Macron’s pension reforms. Approximately 119,000 people demonstrated in Paris alone, setting a new record for the capital city.

The majority of the demonstrators have been peaceful but there have been reports of violent incidents in cities like Paris, Bordeaux, Lyon, and Marseille.

The French Interior Minister said that 11,000 police were deployed across France in case the protests turned violent. About 5,000 police were deployed to the capital.

However, some human rights groups like the French Human Rights League have accused the authorities of “undermining the right of citizens to protest by making disproportionate and dangerous use of public force”.

The demonstrations have been accompanied by widespread strikes, with more set to follow next week. Civil service workers, engineers in the energy sector, and garbage collectors were among the workers who went on strike.

The impact of the garbage collectors going on strike has been particularly visible – and pungent. Paris municipal garbage collectors have been striking for 19 days and have indicated that they will continue until at least Monday next week. The result has been the piling up of thousands of tonnes of rubbish in the city.

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