FRANCE woke up to a Black Thursday of nationwide strikes and anti-government demonstrations today as the police braced themselves for violence.
It comes just a day after French President Emmanuel Macron was caught on a hot mic chatting about Donald Trump with Canadian PM Justin Trudeau at a Buckingham Palace gala.
Protesters hold smoke torches during a demonstration against pension reforms in Marseille[/caption]
Public and private workers demonstrate and shout slogans during a demonstration against pension reforms[/caption]
Unions representing railway and transport workers and many others in the public sector have called for a general strike[/caption]
More than 6000 officers equipped with water cannons and armoured cars were on the streets of Paris.
In one of the biggest tests of Emmanuel Macron’s presidency to date, millions were expected to join in the industrial strife.
Transport workers, teachers, postal workers, firefighters, medics and even lawyers were among those set to take part in what was likely to be the worst protest of its kind since 1995.
SERVICES ‘SEVERELY DISRUPTED’
SNCF, France’s national rail operator, said services would be “severely disrupted”, warning that nine out of 10 high-speed trains would be cancelled across the country.
Eurostar high speed trains from Paris to London are among those which will also be severely hit on Thursday.
Severely reduced Metro services in Paris affected those trying to get to work in the capital, while schools and colleges also shut down.
Many flights into and out of the country were also be delayed or cancelled, while waste collection stopped.
I am not going to comment on stolen videos. That video wasn’t supposed to be filmed in that room
It comes as Macron, 41, hit out a “stolen” clip of him gossiping about Donald Trump.
When asked about the footage, he blasted: “I am not going to comment on stolen videos.
“That video wasn’t supposed to be filmed in that room.”
Trump gave Trudeau the cold shoulder and barely glanced around as the pair exchanged tense words onstage at the Nato meeting today.
Furious Trump responded by blasting the Canadian Prime Minister this afternoon – before leaving the Nato summit early and cancelling a planned press conference.
Asked by a reporter about the exchange last night, Trump blasted: “Well, he’s two faced.”
It came as:
- Furious Donald Trump hit back at Justin Trudeau, calling him “two-faced”
- US President fled the Nato summit early without holding press conference
- Canadian PM Trudeau insisted he has a good relationship with Trump
- Boris Johnson dismissed reports he were laughing at Trump as “nonsense”
Interior Minister Christopher Castaner warned that street violence was all but inevitable.
“We know that there will be a lot of people in the demonstrations and we know the risks,” he told the BFM news channel.
“I’ve asked that systematically, as soon as there is disorder, urban rioting, violence, we can react straight away.”
The strikes are specifically aimed at President Macron’s pension reforms, with 245 rallies authorised for Thursday, including an afternoon march in Paris.
So-called Yellow Vest protesters were expected to mobilise, as well as Black Bloc anarchists.
The Yellow Vests, who are named after their trademark bright yellow motoring jackets, have been behind some of the worst rioting in recent history in France.
The protests began in mid-November of 2018 over fuel tax rises but have escalated into expressions of wider discontent about President Emmanuel Macron’s policies
They have caused millions of pounds worth of damage to Paris monuments such as the Arc de Triomphe, as well as to the shops, banks, restaurants and cafes on the Champs Elysée.
People take part in a demonstration to protest against the pension overhauls, in Montpellier[/caption]
A protester holds a flare as he takes part in a demonstration to protest against the pension overhauls, in Saint-Denis de la Reunion[/caption]
A man wearing a clown mask and waving a smoke bomb takes part in a demonstration to protest against the pension overhauls[/caption]
Unions representing railway and transport workers and many others in the public sector are protesting against French government’s reform of the pension system[/caption]
It is estimated that just one in ten high speed TGV trains will be running across France.
The General Confederation of Labour – the largest trade union in France – said Macron’s pension reforms had triggered mass anger.
A spokesman said: “We have one of the best retirement systems in the world, if not the best.
“However, the president of the Republic decided, because of pure ideology, to annihilate it.”
The independent Macron came to power in 2017, pledging to shrink France’s public services, and to make the private sector more competitive.
But the former merchant bank is now frequently referred to as the “President of the Rich” who is mainly on the side of big business.
The CGT spokesman said: “Everything about social issues, or about health, is now seen as an expense that needs to be reduced.”
He said that Macron was not showing enough interest in “protecting citizens from illness and misery.”
Macron wants to introduce a universal pension system, replacing 42 different schemes currently in place.
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But the disruption could paralyse the French economy if a resolution is not reached.
A series of public sector general strikes in France in late 1995 saw transportation paralysed as millions took to the streets against cuts, including pension reform.
The strikes led to the then conservative President Jacques Chirac and his prime minister Alain Juppé withdrawing their reform plans.
It is estimated that just one in ten high speed TGV trains will be running across France[/caption]
A protester holds a placard which reads: ‘I am an angry teacher’[/caption]
The General Confederation of Labour – the largest trade union in France – said Macron’s pension reforms had triggered mass anger[/caption]
Protesters are angry as Macron wants to introduce a universal pension system, replacing 42 different schemes currently in place[/caption]