Tens of Thousands Protest in France

Strike shuts down much of the country over plan to overhaul retirement system
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 5, 2019 2:00 PM CST
Strike Shuts Down Much of France
Youths throw items at police forces during a demonstration in Paris, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. Small groups of protesters are smashing store windows, setting fires and hurling flares in eastern Paris amid mass strikes over the government's retirement reform.   (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Paris police fired tear gas at demonstrators Thursday as the Eiffel Tower shut down, France’s high-speed trains stood still and tens of thousands marched nationwide in a strike over the government’s plan to overhaul the retirement system. At least 87 protesters were arrested in the French capital by evening as the protests wound down, the AP reports. Unions launched the open-ended, nationwide walkout over President Emmanuel Macron’s centerpiece reform in the biggest challenge to the centrist leader since the yellow vest movement against economic inequality erupted a year ago. Opponents fear the changes to how and when workers can retire will threaten the hard-fought French way of life. Macron himself remained “calm and determined” to push it through, according to a top presidential official.

Small groups of masked activists smashed store windows, set fires and hurled flares on the sidelines of a Paris march that was otherwise peaceful. Demonstrators also shot firecrackers at police in body armor. The Louvre Museum warned of strike disruptions, and subway stations across Paris shut their gates. Many visitors—including the US energy secretary—canceled plans to travel to one of the world’s biggest tourist destinations. Tourists discovered historic train stations standing empty, with about nine out of 10 of high-speed TGV trains canceled. Signs at Paris’ Orly Airport showed “canceled” notices, with authorities saying 20% of flights were grounded. The big question is how long the strike will last. Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne said she expects the travel troubles to be just as bad on Friday, and unions said they will maintain the Paris subway system strike at least through Monday. (Much more here, including what tourists think.)

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