Protesters set fire to bins and threw projectiles at police in Paris who responded with teargas, on the fringes of a march against President Emmanuel Macron and his deeply unpopular pension bill.

Clashes also erupted in similar rallies in cities including Rennes, Bordeaux and Toulouse, with a bank branch and cars set ablaze in Nantes.

However, while public frustration has evolved into broader anti-Macron sentiment, the level of violence on Tuesday was nowhere near that seen last week and rallies were otherwise largely peaceful.

Earlier in the day, the government rejected a new demand by unions to suspend and rethink the pension bill, which will bring the retirement age from 62 up to 64, infuriating labour leaders who said the government must find a way out of the crisis.

The government said it was more than willing to talk to unions, but on other topics, and repeated it would stand firm on the pension front.

“We have proposed a way out … and it’s intolerable that we are being stonewalled again,” the head of the CFDT union, Laurent Berger, told reporters at the start of a rally in Paris.

Mr Macron, who promised to deliver pension reform in both of his presidential campaigns, says change is needed to keep the country’s finances in balance. Unions and opposition parties say there are other ways to do that.

(AFP via Getty Images)

Millions of people have been demonstrating and joining strike action since mid-January to show their opposition to the bill. But public frustration has evolved into broader anti-Macron sentiment.

In particular, the protests have intensified since the government used special powers to push the bill through parliament without a vote.

However, in a move bringing some relief for Parisians and tourists alike, city rubbish collectors said they were suspending their weeks-long strike that has left the roads around famous landmarkts strewn with piles of trash.

In the last big day of protests on Thursday, “Black Bloc” anarchists smashed shop windows, demolished bus stops and ransacked a McDonald’s restaurant in Paris, with similar violence in other cities.

That was some of the worst street violence in years in France, bringing scenes reminiscent of unrest by supporters of the yellow-vest movement during Mr Macron’s first term.

Travellers in Gare du Nord train station, Paris, as the new round of strikes and demonstrations began


On Tuesday, rallies were largely peaceful, with some clashes on the fringes.

In the western city of Nantes, the boarded-up front of a BNP Paribas bank branch was set on fire. A car was set on fire in the margins of the rally, while some shot fireworks at police.

“I’m non-violent but I understand people who go that far,” 69-year old retired postman Noel Cassin said in Nantes.

“If you just go and demonstrate, sing songs and eat sausages, then go home after losing a day’s work (and not getting any result), it’s useless.”

Also in western France, protesters blocked the Rennes ring road and set an abandoned car on fire. In Paris and in Marseille, protesters blocked train tracks for a while.

Interior minister Gerald Darmanin said on Monday that authorities were anticipating a “very serious risk to public order” at demonstrations.

Protesters at St Charles station near Marseille on Tuesday


A total of 13,000 police were expected to be deployed during the protests throughout the day.

Highways in several French cities were blocked on Tuesday morning, and strikes in the transport, aviation and energy sectors continued to disrupt travel.

About 17 per cent of all fuel stations in France were missing at least one product as of Monday night, France’s petroleum association UFIP said, citing energy ministry data.

Student union UNEF said the entrances to around 20 universities including Sciences Po and parts of the Sorbonne in Paris as well as institutions in Lyon, Nice and Toulouse, were also blocked.

Mr Macron, who promised to deliver pension reform in both of his presidential campaigns, says change is needed to keep the country’s finances in balance. Unions and opposition parties say there are other ways to do that.

There were fewer protesters in Marseille and other cities than at previous rallies. Jean-Paul Mattei, a centrist MP whose MoDem party is an ally of Mr Macron, urged him to heed union demands for mediation.

Charles de Courson, from the opposition Liot party, said French authorities should learn from the situation in Israel, where the government just hit pause on a controversial justice overhaul


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