Protests in France escalated over the weekend with officers firing more than 4,000 nonlethal dispersion grenades at people who were voicing their concerns over French President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms.
More than a million people have taken to the streets in recent weeks after Macron said he would increase the retirement age from 62 to 64.
In western France, police and environmental activists clashed over the weekend, resulting in hundreds of arrests and dozens of injuries.
Former President François Hollande, Macron’s predecessor said, “Anger and resentment are at a level that I have rarely seen.”
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The protests have been reinvigorated after they successfully derailed a planned state visit by King Charles III.
The visit was scheduled for Sunday but was called off as over 450 protesters were arrested in Paris and other cities on Thursday and while around 300 demonstrations across the country totaled more than a million people.
Additional strikes and demonstrations are planned for Tuesday, but Macron said the royal visit would have likely become a target for hundreds of thousands of protesters.
He called off what would have been King Charles III’s first international trip to avoid a potentially “detestable situation.”
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Encouraged by that victory, the protest movement is continuing to pick up new recruits, including teenagers who will not experience the proposed pension reform for several decades.
Their involvement is particularly worrisome for Macron as it suggests that protests are evolving and broadening from those concerned with retirement impacts to a more generalized frustration with the president and his governance.
The violence is also growing.
Police utilized dispersion tactics on hundreds of protesters, who threw down rocks, powerful fireworks and gasoline bombs back at police lines.
Freshly spray-painted slogans in Paris streets have compared ongoing demonstrations to the 1789 French Revolution, with subsequent comparisons between Macron and King Louis XVI, who was ultimately condemned to death by revolutionaries. He died via guillotine in 1793.
While no protesters are calling for that same fate, the regular strikes and demonstrations have threatened to make Macron’s second and final term as president more difficult than his first.
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Macron’s critics are not just furious with the proposed retirement age changes, but also with the way Macron imposed it.
He decided not to let legislators vote on his retirement reform because he was not sure of winning a majority for it. Instead, he ordered Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne to use a special constitutional power to ram the bill through parliament
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It was the 11th time Macron had to resort to Article 49.3 of the French Constitution in just 10 months, as he lost his parliamentary majority last June.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.