PARIS — More than 1 million people demonstrated across France on Thursday against unpopular pension reforms, and violence erupted in some places as unions called for new nationwide strikes and protests next week, coinciding with King Charles III’s planned visit to France.
The Interior Ministry said the march in Paris — marred by violence, as were numerous marches elsewhere — drew 119,000 people, which was a record for the capital during the pension protests. Polls say most French oppose President Emmanuel Macron’s bill to increase the retirement age from 62 to 64, which he says is necessary to keep the system afloat.
Building on the strong turnout, unions swiftly called for new protests and strikes on Tuesday when the British king is scheduled to visit Bordeaux on the second day of his trip to France. The heavy wooden door of the elegant Bordeaux City Hall was set afire and quickly destroyed Thursday evening by a members of an unauthorized demonstration, the Sud Ouest newspaper said.
Nationwide, more than a million people joined protest marches held in cities and towns around the country Thursday, the ministry said.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, visiting police headquarters Thursday night as fires still burned in Paris neighborhoods, gave assurance that security “poses no problem” and the British monarch will be “welcomed and welcomed well.”
He said there was “enormous degrading” of public buildings and commerce, “far more important than in precedent demonstrations.”
“There are troublemakers, often extreme left, who want to take down the state and kill police and ultimately take over the institutions,” the minister said.
The demonstrations were held a day after Macron further angered his critics by standing strong on the retirement bill that his government forced through parliament without a vote.
“While the (president) tries to turn the page, this social and union movement … confirms the determination of the world of workers and youth to obtain the withdrawal of the reform,” the eight unions organizing protests said in a statement.