A rising mobilization and scenes of violence in several French cities: here is the balance sheet after the 9th national day, Thursday, March 23, against the pension reform and before new demonstrations planned for March 28.

Now in its third month, the protest against the controversial law of the executive gathered between 1.089 million (Interior) and 3.5 million (CGT) demonstrators Thursday. Sign that the 49.3 decided by the government and the intervention, Wednesday, of the President of the Republic have not cooled the ardor of the opponents.

Aurélie Thieffry, 35, extracurricular animator in Finistère, said Thursday in the Brest procession convinced to be able to push back the executive: "it will be complicated but with a little organization, it is possible to get there".

"We feel that there is an extremely strong momentum of the population, a public opinion that is largely convinced and so as long as there is a timetable that allows us to act, we are mobilized," commented Marylise Léon, No. 2 of the CFDT at the end of the inter-union which gave a new appointment Tuesday to the demonstrators and strikers, with local union rallies this weekend.

The unions, reassured by the figures of the mobilization, were also enraged by processions where young people obviously came in greater numbers.

>> "We must block everything!": in Paris, anger is brewing against Emmanuel Macron and the government

Anything but a surprise as its eruption had been predicted since the beginning of the mobilization: the violence, which had so far been only sporadic, also made a spectacular entry into the game between the government and the unions.

Door of the town hall of Bordeaux burned, "scenes of chaos" denounced by the mayor of Rennes, water cannons in Lille and Toulouse, demonstrator with a thumb torn off in Rouen, police station targeted in Lorient (Morbihan)... The violence has escalated. Almost everywhere in the metropolises. "Unacceptable," said Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne.

Protesters run through tear gas smoke next to a street fire on the sidelines of a protest against pension reform in Toulouse, southwest France, March 23, 2023. © Charly Triballeau, AFP

The executive remains inflexible on pension reform

In Paris, violence broke out at the head of the demonstration with its share of broken windows and destroyed street furniture, and incidents continued in the evening in the wake of so-called "wild" processions. Contrary to a march where the vast majority of demonstrators marched peacefully.

During a rally against pension reform in Nantes, western France, March 23, 2023. © Loïc Venance, AFP

Garbage fires, sirens and flashing lights streaked on a night when clusters of protesters played cat and mouse with the police.

The Minister of the Interior reported 172 arrests in France, and 149 wounded in the ranks of the police, according to a provisional assessment given around 22 p.m. The Paris police prefecture reported 103 people arrested in the capital. Gérald Darmanin denounced the violence of "thugs often from the far left".

The strategy of the executive, "it is a minority strategy to rot a social movement and to scare people by using violence, and I dare to speak of police violence," according to Catherine Perret, confederal secretary of the CGT.

The police carried out numerous charges and bludgeoned the demonstrators in the Parisian procession#manif23mars #reformedeseetraites pic.twitter.com/CfBHJ4G4pz

— Amar Taoualit (@TaoualitAmar) March 23, 2023

The anti-basin mobilizations in the Deux-Sèvres this weekend and the arrival of King Charles III next week in France in the midst of a social crisis promise in any case a sacred challenge for an executive determined to play order. The latter remains inflexible on its reform. Emmanuel Macron had defended tooth and nail Wednesday a reform "necessary" for public finances, assuming his "unpopularity".

>> Pension reform: Emmanuel Macron's untruths

At the end of this new episode of a conflict from which neither side seems to seek a way out, left-wing politicians on Thursday invited the French to further amplify the protest against the pension reform, Fabien Roussel calling to "bring the country to a standstill", and Jean-Luc Mélenchon to "throw all forces into the battle".

For Marine Le Pen, unfortunate finalist of the last presidential election, "Emmanuel Macron can no longer govern alone, he must now return to the people".

With AFP

The summary of the week France 24 invites you to look back on the news that marked the week

I subscribe

Take international news with you everywhere! Download the France 24 app