March 24, 2023

French protesters allegedly set Bordeaux town hall ablaze

French protesters allegedly set Bordeaux town hall ablaze

Protesters in their continued demonstrations against the French government’s plans to raise the pension age has set Bordeaux town hall on fire. 

More than a million people floosed the streets across France on Thursday, with 119,000 in Paris, according to figures from the interior ministry.

BBC reported that the police fired tear gas at protesters in the capital and 80 people were arrested across the country.

The demonstrations were sparked by legislation raising the retirement age by two years to 64.

Unions have called for further protests next Tuesday, which would coincide with King Charles III’s state visit to the country.

He is scheduled to be in the southwest city of Bordeaux on that day, where fire engulfed the front door of the town hall on Thursday evening after a day of protests and clashes.

It was not clear who was responsible for the blaze, which was quickly put out by firefighters.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin sought to quell any concerns ahead of the King Charles’ trip, saying on Thursday night that security “poses no problem” and the monarch will be “welcomed and welcomed well.”

In Paris, generally peaceful demonstrations saw occasional clashes between police and masked rioters who smashed shop windows, demolished street furniture and attacked a McDonald’s restaurant, according to Reuters news agency.

One police officer who lost consciousness was dragged to safety.

Another report revealed that police forces used tear gas and were pelted by objects and fireworks, with 33 people arrested in the capital.

France’s Prime Minister, Élisabeth Borne, tweeted: “Demonstrating and voicing disagreements is a right. The violence and degradation we have witnessed today is unacceptable. All my gratitude to the police and rescue forces mobilized.”

“I oppose this reform and I really oppose the fact that democracy no longer means anything,” a demonstrator told Reuters. “We’re not being represented, and so we’re fed up.”

“It is by protesting that we will be able to make ourselves heard because all the other ways… have not allowed us to withdraw this reform,” another said.

The unrest also disrupted train travel, oil refineries and saw teachers and workers at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport walk out of work.

Popular tourist attractions such as the Eiffel Tower and the Palace of Versailles, where a dinner is planned for King Charles and the French president next week, were also closed on Thursday.

In the northern city of Rouen a young woman was seen lying on the ground after sustaining a serious injury to her hand. Witnesses said she lost her thumb after she was hit by a so-called “flash-ball” grenade fired by police to disperse demonstrators.

There were other clashes in the western cities of Nantes, Rennes and Lorient.

“The street has a legitimacy in France,” said a protester in Nantes. “If Mr Macron can’t remember this historic reality, I don’t know what he is doing here”.

Unions and the political left have deemed the day a success, but where the situation goes from here is an open question.

The government is hoping that the protests will lose momentum, and that the violence on the streets will turn people away.