France Swarms With Protests Against Macron’s Pension Bill


Heeseo Yoon, Staff Writer

Paris, France: banner-waving crowds yell on streets littered with bags of trash. Yells turn into agonized screams and coughs as the ever-present wall of police launches tear gas into the crowd. Yet, instead of dispersing, the protesters stand their ground and even start retaliating against the police in the smoke-filled air. Firefighters burst onto the scene, extinguishing the burning flames protesters made on the streets. Amidst chaos, chants calling for the resignation of Emmanuel Macron grow louder. 

On March 16, 2023, France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, overrode its parliament to pass the pension reform bill, turning the national retirement age from 62 to 64 years old. While this is still the lowest retirement age amongst other developed nations, the prioritization of retirement life is deeply rooted in French culture. According to CNN, spending fourteen percent more on its retirement than other countries, France’s pension system is “the bedrock” of the relationship between the state and the people. Therefore, Macron and his new bill are seen as violators of the French citizens’ “right to a dignified old age.” To add insult to injury, Macron used the authority given by the French people to take away their rights. Macron’s decision to override the parliament undermined democracy, which is the core of the French constitution. “Democracy no longer means anything,” A frustrated demonstrator told Reuters.

Yet, the fury of the French public did nothing to waver Macron’s firm stance. According to Euronews, Macron stated that he had “no regrets”, claiming the reform was “necessary” to prevent a decrease in the number of employees in France as birth rates decrease and life expectancy increases. 

Macron’s indifference seemed to further enrage the populace. Protestors set out on the streets in all the major cities in France: Paris, Marseille, Nantes, Lyon, Lille, and Bordeaux. The once-peaceful demonstrations quickly turned into violent riots. Radical protesters started setting the streets on fire, even going as far as to set the Bordeaux City Hall on fire on March 23rd. As protests continued, violent clashes between the protesters and the police ensued. Controversy amongst both the protestors and the police rose as footage of the protestors throwing flares at the police and the police beating protestors with clubs were revealed. Injuries were severe on both sides, and countless shops and bus stations were destroyed by the rioters. The French public’s anger towards Macron could not have been worse. 

The protests are also in the form of silent yet effective opposition. Garbage collectors refuse to collect trash in the streets in defiance against the pension. According to NBC, 13,000 tons of garbage was estimated to be lying on the streets of Paris alone. 

These various forms of protests and violence do not seem to be able to cease. In fact, Macron’s refusal to address the people’s point of view seems to only add to the anger of the French crowd. With continuing demonstrations and riots, it is clear that the French public’s outrage will not be quenched anytime soon.