France Braces for Violent New Protests 03/28 06:08
PARIS (AP) -- Protests and strikes against unpopular pension reforms kicked
off again Tuesday across France, with police security ramped up against feared
violence and government warnings that radical demonstrators intend "to destroy,
to injure and to kill."
Fears that violence could mar the demonstrations prompted what Interior
Minister Grald Darmanin described as an unprecedented deployment of 13,000
officers, nearly half of them concentrated in the French capital.
Protests got underway peacefully Tuesday morning, with large crowds in
multiple cities. In Paris, striking railway workers with burning flares and
flags invaded and blocked train tracks serving one of the capital's main
stations, Gare de Lyon.
Police were braced for violence later in the day. The interior minister said
more than 1,000 "radical" troublemakers, some from overseas, could latch on to
marches planned in Paris and elsewhere.
"They come to destroy, to injure and to kill police officers and gendarmes.
Their goals have nothing to do with the pension reform. Their goals are to
destabilize our republican institutions and bring blood and fire down on
France," the minister said Monday in detailing the policing measures.
Union leaders and political foes of President Emmanuel Macron blame his
government for protest violence that has flared in recent weeks, saying his
push to raise France's legal retirement age from 62 to 64 sparked it.
Critics also allege that police officers used excessive force against
protesters. A police oversight body is investigating multiple claims of
wrongdoing by officers.
The striking railway workers at Gare de Lyon marched behind a banner that
alleged: "The police mutilates. We don't forgive!"
The new wave of protests was the 10th time since January that unions have
called on workers to walk out and for demonstrators to flood the nation's
streets against Macron's proposal.
Unable to get a majority in parliament's lower house for the unpopular
reforms, Macron rammed them through using a special constitutional power,
further inflaming protesters' anger.
"Everybody is getting madder," said Clment Saild, a train passenger at Gare
de Lyon who said he supports the strikes despite their impact on transportation
and other services.
"I am 26, and I wonder if I will ever retire," he said.
Another passenger, Helene Cogan, 70, said: "French people are stubborn and
things are getting out of hand."