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Chaos in Paris as police fire tear gas at protesters and baton-charge crowds

There has been fresh chaos in the streets of Paris today with protestors clashing with police, as thousands demonstrated the controversial pension reforms pushed through parliament last week.

Police fired teargas and baton-charged crowds on the Grands Boulevards thoroughfare after some protesters were seen throwing stones and directing fireworks at the security forces, live television pictures showed.

Elsewhere in the march, fires were lit and blazed in the street, with pallets and piles of uncollected rubbish set ablaze, leading firefighters to intervene.

According to the CGT union, 800,000 people marched in the French capital, but official estimates say the true number is likely to be a fraction of that. 

Five thousand police officers were on the streets of Paris today as the first day of massive state-sanctioned marches kicked off against President Emmanuel Macron raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 without a parliamentary vote.

Pictures appear to show protesters throwing tear gas canisters back at police amid clashes as part of the ninth day of nationwide strikes and protests against the French government’s pension reform

Defiant protestors were pictured wearing masks as tear gas and smoked filled the city's streets

Defiant protestors were pictured wearing masks as tear gas and smoked filled the city’s streets

One image shows an injured officer being carried away by his colleagues in Paris today

One image shows an injured officer being carried away by his colleagues in Paris today

A protestor poses with a slogan which reads in French 'Me Raoul, I am not a prisoner of your system', as a fire blazes behind him

A protestor poses with a slogan which reads in French ‘Me Raoul, I am not a prisoner of your system’, as a fire blazes behind him

There have been constant night time riots since the measure was forced through by decree last Thursday, but today – with the sun up – protesters blocked access to an airport terminal, sat on train tracks and clashed with police across France.

Protesters were also reported to be throwing tear gas canisters back at police amid the clashes, on what is the ninth day of nationwide strikes and protests. 

Armed riot police were pictured today trying to hold the rioters back, with one image showing an injured officer being carried away by his colleagues.

Meanwhile, defiant protestors were pictured wearing masks as tear gas and smoked filled the city’s streets.

As anger rises, King Charles and Camilla, the Queen Consort, have been told they will be targeted if they – as planned – arrive in Paris on Sunday for a three-day visit.

A lavish banquet due to take place on Monday at the Palace of Versailles – where Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette lived before being guillotined – is already set to be moved because of the risk posed by the protesters, local reports have said.

However, the UK government doubled down on the visit today, saying the Palace and the Government has no intention on altering the plans. 

French riot police apprehend a protester amid clashes during a demonstration as part of the ninth day of nationwide strikes

French riot police apprehend a protester amid clashes during a demonstration as part of the ninth day of nationwide strikes

A man holds a French flag during a demonstration, a week after the government pushed a pensions reform through parliament without a vote

A man holds a French flag during a demonstration, a week after the government pushed a pensions reform through parliament without a vote

‘It’s not the right time,’ said Jean-Luc Melenchon, a regular presidential candidate and leader of the France Unbowed party, addressing the royal visit.

‘Mr King, listen, we have nothing against you here, but you’re the king of the English – that’s your business – but you should stay away from Versailles’.

The British government said that there are no plans to change the visit despite social disorder rocking the country.

Protesters were seen throwing tear gas canisters back amid clashes with riot police

Protesters were seen throwing tear gas canisters back amid clashes with riot police

French riot police stand in position in front of the Opera Garnier amid clashes with protesters

French riot police stand in position in front of the Opera Garnier amid clashes with protesters

Five thousand police officers were on the streets of Paris today as the first day of massive state-sanctioned marches kicked off

Five thousand police officers were on the streets of Paris today as the first day of massive state-sanctioned marches kicked off

Protesters gather next to a burning barricade in Paris as strikes and marches continued nationwide today

Protesters gather next to a burning barricade in Paris as strikes and marches continued nationwide today

‘We certainly don’t get into the realms of dictating that sort of thing to His Majesty. That will be a decision for them,’ Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman told reporters.

But he added: ‘I’m not aware of any plans to change the plan.’

Charles and his wife Camilla are due to be in France from Sunday to Wednesday, and then in Germany, for the first state visits abroad of his reign following the death of Queen Elizabeth II last year.

Masked French riot police stand in position on a Paris street as the air is filled with tear gas

Masked French riot police stand in position on a Paris street as the air is filled with tear gas

Police wielded batons during clashes with protestors

Police wielded batons during clashes with protestors

The King will join Macron for a ceremony of remembrance at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and for a banquet at the Palace of Versailles, before heading on to Bordeaux in the southwest.

The event at Versailles is meant to be the glittering highlight of the State Visit – Charles’s first as monarch.

A concert is also set to be held in the Royal Chapel, and dinner will be served on Duplessis porcelain plates made during the reign of Louis XV.

Five thousands police officers were on the streets of Paris today as they prepared for the first day of state-sanctioned marches since President Emmanuel Macron raised the retirement age from 62 to 64 without a parliamentary vote. Pictured: Protesters walk on the 'Vieux Port' during a demonstration in Marseille, southeastern France, on March 23

Five thousands police officers were on the streets of Paris today as they prepared for the first day of state-sanctioned marches since President Emmanuel Macron raised the retirement age from 62 to 64 without a parliamentary vote. Pictured: Protesters walk on the ‘Vieux Port’ during a demonstration in Marseille, southeastern France, on March 23

There have been constant night time riots since the measure was forced through by decree last Thursday, and now millions are set to gather during the day - with the biggest airport in France blocked by demonstrators this morning. Pictured: A demonstrator holds a smoke flare during a demonstration in Reims, eastern France, on March 23, 2023

There have been constant night time riots since the measure was forced through by decree last Thursday, and now millions are set to gather during the day – with the biggest airport in France blocked by demonstrators this morning. Pictured: A demonstrator holds a smoke flare during a demonstration in Reims, eastern France, on March 23, 2023

Demonstrators – including opposition politicians – have accused Macron of being completely out of touch with the lives of ordinary people.

‘It’s amazing’ said MP Sandrine Rousseau. ‘We are going to have Emmanuel Macron, the Republican monarch meeting Charles III while people in the street are demonstrating.

‘Can this really be happening? This is an incredible denial of democracy. ‘Something is happening in this country – is the priority really to receive Charles III at Versailles?’

A French left-wing politician has issued a chilling threat to Britain's King Charles III (pictured with wife Camilla, the Queen Consort) ahead of his state visit as millions prepare to protest on 'Back Thursday'

A French left-wing politician has issued a chilling threat to Britain’s King Charles III (pictured with wife Camilla, the Queen Consort) ahead of his state visit as millions prepare to protest on ‘Back Thursday’

Pictured: A banner reading 'general strike' is displayed on a dome of the La Major cathedral in Marseille, southern France, on March 23

Pictured: A banner reading ‘general strike’ is displayed on a dome of the La Major cathedral in Marseille, southern France, on March 23

Pictured: A giant puppet is pulled down the street by a tractor in Bordeaux on Thursday

Pictured: A giant puppet is pulled down the street by a tractor in Bordeaux on Thursday

Versailles, which was built by the Sun King, Louis XIV, still represents the fabulous wealth and privilege of France’s pre-revolutionary Royals.

Trade unionists and other protesters have already pledged to disrupt all events attended by the British Monarch, including a trip to the south west city of Bordeaux on Tuesday.

A Buckingham Palace source said the situation in France ‘was being monitored,’ but there were no immediate plans to cancel the trip, which starts on Sunday.

In the face of the UK government’s resolve over the visit, French public sector trade unionists have warned they will not provide red carpets for the royals.

The CGT union representing staff at the National Furniture service, which is responsible for manufacturing and maintaining red carpets among other items, said Wednesday they would strike during the sovereign’s trip.

The union said its members would no longer provide ‘furnishings, red carpets or flag services.’ ‘We’re aware that the king of England will be welcomed in France this weekend and our services will be required,’ a statement said, adding that the visit would take place ‘without us’.

‘We ask our managers to point out to the ministry of culture that any request for furnishings will be seen immediately by workers as a provocation,’ the statement added.

But a spokesman for the National Furniture service told AFP news agency that only 24 members of staff were on strike on Thursday out of 420.

‘The red carpet has been delivered and the trade unions have assured us that they will not block the work of non-striking staff,’ Loic Turpin said.

Plumes of smoke rise from burning pile of debris blocking the ongoing traffic on A620 highway in La Cepiere, Toulouse, March 23

Plumes of smoke rise from burning pile of debris blocking the ongoing traffic on A620 highway in La Cepiere, Toulouse, March 23

Protestors gather on place de la Bastille to attend a demonstration a week after the government pushed a pensions reform through parliament without a vote, using the article 49.3 of the constitution, in Paris on March 23

Protestors gather on place de la Bastille to attend a demonstration a week after the government pushed a pensions reform through parliament without a vote, using the article 49.3 of the constitution, in Paris on March 23

A fire is seen as riot police officers are in action to disperse demonstrators in Paris on March 23

A fire is seen as riot police officers are in action to disperse demonstrators in Paris on March 23

Riot police officers walk towards demonstrators during a rally in Paris on March 23

Riot police officers walk towards demonstrators during a rally in Paris on March 23

A protestor kicks a teargas canister after it was fired by French riot police during a demonstration in Paris on March 23

A protestor kicks a teargas canister after it was fired by French riot police during a demonstration in Paris on March 23

Pictured: Thousands of protesters gather in Bordeaux, western France, on March 23

Pictured: Thousands of protesters gather in Bordeaux, western France, on March 23

People take part in a rally against the law reforming France's pensions system in Rennes, western France on March 23

People take part in a rally against the law reforming France’s pensions system in Rennes, western France on March 23

Protestors take part in a demonstration against pension reforms in Laval, western France, on March 23

Protestors take part in a demonstration against pension reforms in Laval, western France, on March 23

Protesters attend a demonstration during the ninth day of nationwide strikes and protests against French government's pension reform, in Nice, France, March 23

Protesters attend a demonstration during the ninth day of nationwide strikes and protests against French government’s pension reform, in Nice, France, March 23

A protester burns wooden numbers displaying "49-3", next to a placard which reads as "64, it's no", as he takes part in a demonstration on a national action day, a week after the government pushed a pensions reform through parliament without a vote, using the article 49.3 of the constitution, in Brest, western France, on March 23, 2023

A protester burns wooden numbers displaying ’49-3′, next to a placard which reads as ’64, it’s no’, as he takes part in a demonstration on a national action day, a week after the government pushed a pensions reform through parliament without a vote, using the article 49.3 of the constitution, in Brest, western France, on March 23, 2023

CGT trade union members attend a rally against the government's reform to the pension system, in Marseille, France, March 23

CGT trade union members attend a rally against the government’s reform to the pension system, in Marseille, France, March 23

Pictured: Protesters carry a banner which reads as "Young people say no to pension at 64 year-old" in Bordeaux, western France, on March 23, 2023

Pictured: Protesters carry a banner which reads as ‘Young people say no to pension at 64 year-old’ in Bordeaux, western France, on March 23, 2023

Pictured: People wear costumes as they ride on a CGT union truck during a rally against the government's reform to the pension system, in Marseille, France, March 23

Pictured: People wear costumes as they ride on a CGT union truck during a rally against the government’s reform to the pension system, in Marseille, France, March 23

A demonstrator walks by burning wreckages during a rally against the law reforming the pensions system in Rennes, western France on March 23

A demonstrator walks by burning wreckages during a rally against the law reforming the pensions system in Rennes, western France on March 23

Pictured: Passengers walk on the road with their luggage as airport workers on strike gather outside the Terminal 1 during the ninth day of nationwide strikes and protests against French government's pension reform, at the Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport near Paris, March 23

Pictured: Passengers walk on the road with their luggage as airport workers on strike gather outside the Terminal 1 during the ninth day of nationwide strikes and protests against French government’s pension reform, at the Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport near Paris, March 23

Pictured: Passengers walk on the road with their luggage as airport workers on strike gather outside the Terminal 1 during the ninth day of nationwide strikes and protests against French government's pension reform, at the Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport near Paris, March 23

Pictured: Passengers walk on the road with their luggage as airport workers on strike gather outside the Terminal 1 during the ninth day of nationwide strikes and protests against French government’s pension reform, at the Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport near Paris, March 23

Chaos in Paris as police fire tear gas at protesters and baton-charge crowds

‘It’s not the right time,’ said Jean-Luc Melenchon (pictured today), a regular presidential candidate and leader of the France Unbowed party, addressing the royal visit

In central Paris, where a demonstration had been mainly peaceful, police used tear gas after protesters threw projectiles and set bins ablaze. A McDonald’s restaurant was ransacked.

Small groups of ‘Black Bloc’ anarchists were seen among the protesters. Unions fear that protests could turn more violent if there continues to be no political response from the government.

Beyond riots, anti-Macron protests in France have included some 10,000 tonnes of rubbish building up on the streets of Paris after binmen withdrew their labour.

Roissy-Charles De Gaulle airport outside Paris was hit by wildcat action by workers. 

‘It is absolute pandemonium here,’ said a would-be air passenger who asked to be referred to as Trevor, 19. ‘Taxis are all at a standstill, so we’re being forced to walk on the roads with all our luggage.’

A Paris Airports spokesman confirmed that ‘Terminal 1 is blocked by activists, as well as road access to other areas.’ Pictures showed dozens of flag-waving protesters gathered outside on a main concourse at the airport.

Such scenes were replicated across France, as oil depots, town halls, ports, and other transport links were blockaded.

High-speed and regional trains, the Paris metro and public transportation systems in other major cities were disrupted. About 30 percent of flights at Paris Orly Airport were also cancelled.

Police also fired tear gas at protesters in several other cities, including the western cities of Nantes and Bordeaux. 

In Rennes, they used water cannon. In the western town of Lorient, Ouest-France newspaper said projectiles caused a brief fire in the yard of a police station.

‘There is a lot of anger, an explosive situation,’ the leader of the hardline CGT union, Philippe Martinez, said at the start of a rally in Paris. Union leaders called for calm but were angry with what they called Macron’s ‘provocative’ comments.

Thursday’s events were the ninth round of nationwide protests and strikes called by France’s eight main unions since January. Violence has intensified in recent days at scattered protests against the pension reform and Macron’s leadership.

The French leader is stubbornly resisting the discontent on the streets, and said Wednesday that the government’s bill to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 must be implemented by the end of the year.

Critics attacked Macron for the statement, describing him as ‘self-satisfied,’ ‘out of touch’ and ‘offensive.’ Violence has intensified in recent days at scattered protests against the pension reform and Macron’s leadership.

Nadia Belhoum, a 48-year-old bus driver participating in the action, criticised Macron’s decision to force the lower retirement age through.

‘The president of the Republic is supposed to … take into consideration the desires and needs of his people. He is not a king, and he should listen to his people.’

Opinion polls have long shown that a majority of voters oppose delaying retirement age by two years to 64. Voters were further angered by the government’s decision last week to push the pension changes through parliament.

Many slogans and banners took aim at the president, who avoided reporters as he arrived in Brussels for a European Union leaders summit.

The biggest march today will be between Place de la Bastille and Opera in Paris, where most of the 5000 police will be concentrated. Pictured: Protesters attend a demonstration during the ninth day of nationwide strikes and protests against French government's pension reform, in Nantes, France, March 23

The biggest march today will be between Place de la Bastille and Opera in Paris, where most of the 5000 police will be concentrated. Pictured: Protesters attend a demonstration during the ninth day of nationwide strikes and protests against French government’s pension reform, in Nantes, France, March 23

Pictured: Protesters wave a flag and a flare next to a fire burning on the street , as they take part in a demonstration on a national action day in Bordeaux, France, March 23

Pictured: Protesters wave a flag and a flare next to a fire burning on the street , as they take part in a demonstration on a national action day in Bordeaux, France, March 23

Masked protesters hold umbrellas to defend against tear gas as one kicks a cannister away during clashes at a demonstration as part of the ninth day of nationwide strikes and protests against French government's pension reform, in Nantes, France, March 23

Masked protesters hold umbrellas to defend against tear gas as one kicks a cannister away during clashes at a demonstration as part of the ninth day of nationwide strikes and protests against French government’s pension reform, in Nantes, France, March 23

A protester, wearing a mask depicting French President Emmanuel Macron, attends a demonstration during the ninth day of nationwide strikes and protests against French government's pension reform, in Nice, France, March 23

A protester, wearing a mask depicting French President Emmanuel Macron, attends a demonstration during the ninth day of nationwide strikes and protests against French government’s pension reform, in Nice, France, March 23

A puppet depicting French President Emmanuel Macron is seen during a demonstration as part of the ninth day of nationwide strikes and protests against French government's pension reform, in Nice, France, March 23, 2023

A puppet depicting French President Emmanuel Macron is seen during a demonstration as part of the ninth day of nationwide strikes and protests against French government’s pension reform, in Nice, France, March 23, 2023

A protester, disguised as the US superhero Spiderman, raises his fist as he takes part in a demonstration on a national action day, in Marseille, southern France, on March 23

A protester, disguised as the US superhero Spiderman, raises his fist as he takes part in a demonstration on a national action day, in Marseille, southern France, on March 23

Pictured: Thousands of people attend a rally against the government's reform to the pension system, in Marseille, France, March 23

Pictured: Thousands of people attend a rally against the government’s reform to the pension system, in Marseille, France, March 23

Pictured: A protester throws a bottle at police officers in Nantes, western France on March 21

Pictured: A protester throws a bottle at police officers in Nantes, western France on March 21 

Initial estimates from police forces across the country suggested the turnout could exceed mass demonstrations before the bill was pushed through. The CGT union said some 800,000 people had marched in the capital.

The French government invoked a constitutional provision last week to get the pension bill adopted without the approval of lawmakers. The bill must now pass a review by France’s Constitutional Council before becoming law.

Macron’s government survived two no-confidence votes in the lower chamber of parliament on Monday.

The 45-year-old centrist president, who is in his second and final term, repeatedly said he was convinced that France’s retirement system needed to be modified to keep it financed. Opponents proposed other solutions, including higher taxes on the wealthy or companies, which Macron says would hurt the economy.

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