Macron pension reform protesters smash office windows of opposition


Protesters vandalised the Nice office of the president of the Republicans party in an apparent threat to get his right-wing party to vote to block President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform.

Eric Ciotti published a photo of his office in the French Riviera city with shattered windows, after a paving stone was thrown at it overnight into Sunday. The vandals also scrawled the words “the motion or the stone” — in reference to the motions of censure against the pension reform that will be voted on Monday in the National Assembly in Paris.

Amid weeks of mass protests over Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, Macron last week ordered Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne to invoke a special constitutional power to skirt a vote in the lower chamber of parliament. In response, lawmakers at both ends of the political spectrum filed no-confidence motions against her Cabinet on Friday.

Ciotti had announced his party would not vote for either of the two motions of censure — meaning there would not be enough votes to stop the law.

Reacting to the vandals, Ciotti tweeted: “I will never give in to the new disciples of terror.”

A demonstrator holds up a placard reading ‘Live yes! Survive no!’ next to a fire burning on Boulevard Massena

Credit: Nathan Laine

Riot police run past a fire lit by demonstrator in Paris

Riot police run past a fire lit by demonstrator in Paris

Credit: Nathan Laine

Getting a no-confidence motion to pass will be challenging — none has succeeded since 1962, and Macron’s centrist alliance still has the most seats in the National Assembly. A minority of conservatives could stray from the Republicans party line, but it remains to be seen whether they’re willing to bring down Macron’s government.

More than 80 people were arrested at a 4,000-strong Paris demonstration Saturday where some set rubbish bins on fire, destroyed bus stops and erected improvised barricades.

And 15 more were held in Lyon after police said “groups of violent individuals” triggered clashes.

Burning waste containers during a demonstration in Bordeaux

Burning waste containers during a demonstration in Bordeaux


Other demonstrations in cities around France passed off peacefully, with hundreds turning out in the Mediterranean port city Marseille.

“What do we have left apart from continuing to demonstrate?” said Romain Morizot, a 33-year-old telecoms engineer, at the Marseille protest.

After the government used a constitutional provision to bypass a parliamentary vote on pension reform, “now that will stoke social tensions everywhere,” Morizot added.

“We’ll keep going, we don’t have a choice”.

Rubbish collections halted 

Away from the streets of major cities, the hard-left CGT union said Saturday that workers would shut down France’s largest oil refinery in Normandy, warning that two more could follow on Monday.

So far, strikers had only prevented fuel deliveries from leaving refineries but not completely halted operations.

Industrial action has also halted rubbish collection in much of Paris, with around 10,000 tonnes of waste now on the streets as the government forces some binmen back to work.

A ninth day of wider strikes and protests is planned for Thursday. _P59miBI0rc

People close to Macron told AFP that the president was “of course following developments” on the ground.

Alongside raising the headline retirement age, Macron’s reform also increases the number of years people must pay into the system to receive a full pension.

The government says its changes are needed to avoid crippling deficits in the coming decades linked to France’s aging population.

But opponents say the law places an unfair burden on low earners, women and people doing physically wearing jobs, and polls have consistently showed majorities opposed to the changes.

A survey of 2,000 people published in the Journal du Dimanche weekly on Sunday gave Macron an approval rating of 28 percent, its lowest since 2019’s mass “yellow vests” demonstrations against a new fuel tax.

After Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne used Article 49.3 of the constitution to pass the law without a vote in the lower house National Assembly, opponents’ last hope to block the reform is to topple the government in one of Monday’s no-confidence votes.

Labour Minister Olivier Dussopt told the JDD that “it’s not an admission of failure, but it’s heart-breaking” to have used the nuclear option to pass the reform.

The pensions changes were “too important to take the risk of playing Russian roulette,” he added, after weeks of concessions to the Republicans – long in favour of raising the retirement age – failed to bring enough conservative MPs on board to secure a majority.

Few lawmakers in the fractious Republicans group are expected to vote against the government in Monday’s no-confidence motions, brought by a small group of centrist MPs and the far-right National Rally.

Ciotti said he didn’t want to “add chaos to chaos”.