Police deploy water cannon during clashes at Macron labor reform protests in Paris
Officers in riot gear fired tear gas and used water cannons to disperse protesters angry at French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to pursue job cuts and salary freezes across the public sector, including education, transport and the courts.
In footage captured from the scene of the protest at Boulevard Saint-Jacques in the 14th arrondissement protesters can be seen throwing objects at police and lifting street-side railings to use as barriers. Windows were also broken at the nearby Marriott Rive Guache hotel. Refuse bins were overturned and their contents set alight by the roadside.
Police have been pictured charging along the Boulevard Saint-Jacques, forcing the main body of the protest to retreat eastwards to Boulevard Auguste Blanqui. A number of protesters overrun by officers in riot gear have responded by lifting their arms above their heads in a ‘don’t shoot’ gesture.
The demonstration moved to Place d’Italie and the junction at Rue Bobillot, a popular retail and commercial area of the city. Protesters have been seen lighting flares while police have blocked Rue Bobillot with their vans. At one point, officers were seen dragging a prone protester clear of the scene.
While Macron’s presidency is being challenged by ongoing protests, the latest polls show that only 42 percent of respondents expressed approval of him as the country’s leader.
The survey revealed that the majority of respondents were unhappy with Macron, but the research paints a very conflicted picture, as a similar proportion of respondents (57 percent) were in favor of the president’s reform plans.
The opinion poll also reflected growing discontent among the public. Only 30 percent of respondents agreed that Macron was “in touch with French people’s concerns,” hinting at his tax cuts for the well-off and neglect towards workers’ needs.
“In every area there is discontent,”said Edwy Plenel, veteran political journalist with the investigative news website Mediapart, in a recent interview with Macron.
Barely concealing his anger, Macron rebuffed Plenel’s remarks and said his question about protests was “biased.”
The past three months saw thousands of protestors demonstrating against Macron’s decision to adopt wide-ranging reforms. The rail company (known as the SNCF) workers are angered by the government’s move to freeze salaries and cut 120,000 jobs, along with plans to introduce payment based on merit and to use more private contractors.
Travelers across the country have been greatly affected by the strikes. Most intercity connections were disrupted, as well as the connection between Paris station Gare du Nord and both airports. SNCF President Guillaume Pepy estimated that the economic burden that strikes inflict on the company amounts to €20 million ($24.7 million) per day.
Students and professors at Paris, Toulouse, Montpellier, Bordeaux, Strasbourg and Rennes universities have also voiced their frustration with the new reforms. Macron’s initiative to rebuild the education system was resisted by students who occupied universities across the country and had them shut down.
Massive student protests, which began in March, have been battling the government’s plans to introduce an admission criteria and rank young people who apply to public universities. Despite public dismay and repeated attacks over his pro-business economic policy, which already earned him the nickname ‘President of the Rich,’ Macron has vowed to maintain his stance and proceed with the reforms.