Scuffles break out in Paris as pensions protesters, ‘yellow vests’ march

French labour union members and workers on strike attend a demonstration after 24 days of strike against French government's pensions reform plans in Paris, France, December 28, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Protesters marching against the French government’s planned pension reform clashed with the police in Paris on Saturday as police fired tear gas to disperse some groups of demonstrators.

French trade unions have spearheaded nationwide strikes since early December in an outcry over President Emmanuel Macron’s pensions overhaul, disrupting schools, railways and roads, while lending support to regular protests.

On Saturday “yellow vests” – an anti-government movement that sprung up a year ago as a backlash against the high cost of living – joined a rally of several thousand people against the pensions shake-up.

Police used tear gas against protesters close to tourists hotspots like the Center Pompidou museum of modern art, where some demonstrators had tried to erect barricades and set fire to them, and smashed up a bus stop.

Clashes broke out at other points of the demonstration too, although the protest was dying down by the late afternoon.

Jerome Rodrigues, a prominent figure in the “yellow vest” movement, was hurt in the eye although it was not immediately clear how he had sustained the injury. Rodrigues was blinded in the same eye earlier this year during another demonstration.

France’s transport network remained disrupted across the country and in Paris on the last weekend of the year, and rail and metro workers have so far insisted they will keep pressure on Macron to abandon his overhaul.

“We’re ready to hold for quite a while,” said Laurent Djebali, a representative of the metro branch of the Unsa union as he joined the march.

Macron has touted his reform as conducive to a fairer system that will incentivize workers to stay in the labour force until 64 instead of 62 and balance the pension budget, while eliminating many special regimes.