The biggest security operation in recent French history will unfold today to combat rioters who want to bring ‘fire and blood’ to the streets – days after a state visit by King Charles was cancelled because of the violence.
Gérald Darmanin, the country’s Interior Ministry, said Tuesday would involve an ‘unprecedented effort’ by the forces of law and order.
Up to a million people are expected to join marches against President Emmanuel Macron raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 without a parliamentary vote.
‘Radicalized elements from the Left and the Ultra-Left want to hijack the trade union processions,’ said Mr Darmanin.
‘Their aim is to bring fire and blood to France,’ he added, saying that 13,000 police and gendarmes would be mobilised, including 5,500 in Paris alone. They will be supported by armoured cars, water cannon, and military units in reserve.
The biggest security operation in recent French history will unfold today to combat rioters who want to bring ‘fire and blood’ to the streets, as protests against Macron’s pension rise continue. Pictured: Riot police detain a protester in Paris last week
Gérald Darmanin, the country’s Interior Ministry, said Tuesday would involve an ‘unprecedented effort’ by the forces of law and order. Pictured: Riot police run past burning wooden pallets in the streets of Paris
Protesters set up a flaming barricade across railway tracks at a train station during a demonstration in Brittany, western France, on March 28
‘The services of the Ministry of the Interior anticipate very significant risks of disturbances to public order,’ said Mr Darmanin – who hit British headlines last year when he and other French officials wrongly blamed fans of Liverpool Football Club for crowd troubles ahead of the Champions League Final in Paris in May.
The issues on the day have since been blamed on poor policing, with Mr Darmanin and other officials slammed for wrongly accusing Liverpool fans of unrest.
‘More than 1,000 radical elements, some of whom coming from abroad’ will target ‘Paris, Lyon, Rennes, Nantes, Dijon, Bordeaux,’ and other cities, said Mr Darmanin on Tuesday’s planned protests.
The most feared group is Black Bloc – an alliance of anarchists from all over Europe, who are expected to be out in force.
Laurent Nunez, president of Paris’s Prefecture de Police, told France Inter radio that security agencies believed more people intent on violence could join the protests and police had to be ready.
‘We are talking about individuals which often are being monitored by intelligence services … and we are very vigilant about their presence,’ Nunez said.
King Charles and Camilla, the Queen Consort, were meant to be in Bordeaux today, as part of a four-day state visit to France, but it was dramatically halted on Friday.
Attacks included an attempt to burn down the City Hall in the south west city, where unions had pledged to barrack the Royal couple.
The protest movement is the biggest domestic crisis of Macron’s second term, with the strikes on Tuesday also affecting refineries, bin collections, rail transport, air travel and schools.
Up to a million people are expected to join marches against President Emmanuel Macron raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 without a parliamentary vote. Pictured: French riot officers face down protesters in Bordeaux, southwestern France
Thousands of protesters are seen marching through the streets of Paris earlier this month
Laurent Nunez, president of Paris’s Prefecture de Police, told France Inter radio that security agencies believed more people intent on violence could join the protests and police had to be ready. Pictured: Riot police watch on as protesters march in Paris
Employees hold banners and unions’ flags as they block the entrance of the Musee du Louvre to denounce government’s controversial pension reform, in Paris, on March 27
The Louvre museum in Paris was blocked by strikers, while pickets continued at petrol depots and waste incinerators, particularly surrounding the capital, where 10,000 tonnes of rubbish are still piling up.
Dozens of railway workers with flags and flares marched along tracks outside Gare de Lyon – one of Paris’s main railway stations, while motorways in several other French cities were blocked on Tuesday morning.
About 17 percent of all fuel stations in France were missing at least one product as of Monday night, France’s petroleum association UFIP said, citing French energy ministry data.
Student union UNEF said the entrances to around 20 universities including Sciences Po and parts of the Sorbonne in Paris as well as institutions in Lyon, Nice and Toulouse were also blocked.
The crisis has intensified as lawyers complain of excess violence and arbitrary arrests by squads of paramilitary police.
A 30-year-old man was fighting for his life in a coma on Tuesday after being repeatedly hit over the head with a police truncheon during a riot at the weekend.
In turn, Mr Darmanin said ‘many police officers have been severely injured’ during the protests.
Despite the violence and industrial paralysis, Mr Macron and his prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, said there was no chance of a climb down from flagship pensions reform. ‘We have to find the right path,’ said Ms Borne ‘We need to calm down’.
Pictured: Rioters walk around a towering fire in Bordeaux as police officers stand guard
Pictured: A riot police officer is struck by a firework in Paris last week amid protests and riots
Pictured: Protesters are chased by riot police officers wielding batons in Paris last week
But Laurent Berger, the head of the moderate CFDT union, said the protests would continue until there was a U-turn.
Millions of people have been demonstrating, largely peacefully, and joining strike action since mid-January to show their opposition to Macron’s plans to make most of them work an extra two years to 64.
But public frustration has evolved into broader anti-Macron sentiment.
The protests have intensified since the government used special constitutional powers to bypass parliament on a final vote on the pensions bill almost two weeks ago, bringing scenes of chaos reminiscent of unrest by supporters of the yellow-vest movement during Macron’s first term as president.
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