Savannah Brooks ’26
Widespread protests in Paris have been grabbing international attention since they began on January 19, 2023. It can be difficult to follow protests that last for weeks, so here’s the breakdown:
Who is protesting?
More than one million people across the world have participated in the protests, most of those people being workers. Most famously, garbage workers are on strike, so bags of trash have been piling up all over Parisian streets. The protesting workers also include teachers and those who work in transport, energy, and the public sector. The protests have been spurred on by all French trade unions.
Why are they protesting?
The demonstrations began due to French President Emmanual Macron’s emergency presidential decree on March 16 that raised the pension (or, as it’s called in the US, retirement) age from 62 to 64. The proposed legislation had already passed the Senate and was headed for a vote in the National Assembly on the 17th, but Macron used his emergency powers to pass it without said vote. The rise in pension age can disproportionately affect blue-collar workers, who generally enter the workforce sooner than white-collar workers.
What do the protests look like?
The protests have ranged from strikes to riots in the streets. As of Friday, 441 police and gendarmes (armed military police) have been injured according to the Interior Minister. Over 450 protestors have been arrested and 1,000 trash bins have been set ablaze. Additionally, flights in and out of the city have been canceled and lines of trucks are blocking access to Marseille’s commercial port. The Eiffel Tower and Versailles were both temporarily closed. Train and bus stations have also been blocked, stores have been raided, and, throughout France, administrative and police buildings have been targeted. Police have used tear gas several times to attempt to quell the protests.
Where are protests occurring?
The largest protests have been in Paris, but they’ve spread across the country and even internationally. Most notably, demonstrations have occurred in the French cities of Nantes, Rennes, Lyon, and Lorient as well as in Athens, Greece.
What is the future for these protests?
Right now, it’s unclear. President Macron hasn’t shown much willingness to reverse the policy, but he has been mindful of the protests. The French government postponed the visit of King Charles III of England and the Queen Consort, Camila, due to safety concerns. The protestors themselves as well as the unions also show no sign of stopping or even slowing down until their demands are met.
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