France Faces Renewed Protests, Violence Over Pension Change

French President Emmanuel Macron faced a fresh round of protests over his recent changes to the country’s pension law. May Day protesters clashed with police in the newest sign that French popular anger over the policy shift has not subsided.

To mark the French labor day, May Day, thousands of protesters took to the streets in opposition to Macron’s changes.

The scale of the protests dwarfed the police response, and more than 100 police have been injured by mid-Monday.

French police also reported almost 300 arrested. A number of protesters threw Molotov cocktails at police and set off fireworks. One Molotov cocktail resulted in one police officer facing severe burns on his hands and face.

The protests led to a strong response from French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, who called the violence “unacceptable.”

French authorities believe that almost 800,000 people mobilized for the protests across the country, including more than 100,000 in Paris. One of the country’s leading unions believe that there were more than two million taking to the streets.

Protesters also set a number of vehicles on fire and smashed windows of businesses. In one case, protesters occupied a luxury hotel in the southern French city of Marseilles.

France was paralyzed by protests earlier this year over Macron’s proposal to increase the age to draw retirement pensions from 62 to 64. After the country’s parliament did not pass the measure, Macron used the equivalent of an executive order to push it through.

The effort has seriously harmed Macron’s political standing, though he is barred by the nation’s constitution from seeking a third term in office.

The changes to France’s pension system will begin in September.

While Macron’s government requested talks with the nation’s powerful unions, so far no such negotiations have taken place. The unions desire a full repeal of the changes.

Recent polls showed that Macron would lose a rematch to right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen. Macron defeated Le Pen last year. While Macron cannot run in the next election, Le Pen can and likely will.