One day after mocking Donald Trump during the NATO summit in “hot mic” comments, French President Emmanuel Macron was hunkered down in his Paris office as 500,000 French citizens took to the streets across France to protest.
It appears that Trump got the last laugh.
French police battled with protesters in Paris on Thursday as France came to a standstill due to the largest public-sector strike in decades. Workers are striking over Macron’s proposals to reform the public pension system.
The strike paralyzed the nation as mass transit shut down, teachers stayed home, and hospitals operated with skeleton staffs.
In Paris, police briefly fired teargas during skirmishes with black-clad protesters on the edges of the trade union-led march in the early afternoon. Some protesters set fire to a storage trailer and smashed windows and a bus-shelter. Firefighters put out small fires lit in bins and some cars were overturned.
More than 6,000 riot police lined the route of the demonstration from Paris Gare du Nord to the east of the city, while groups of officers stopped people walking towards the demonstration and searched bags. By late afternoon there had been more than 70 arrests and 9,000 searches.
Riot police in Nantes, western France, fired teargas at masked protesters, who hurled projectiles at them.
Macron wants to take the fractured and disjointed public pension system that features “42 ‘special’ regimes for sectors ranging from rail and energy workers to lawyers and Paris Opera staff,” merging them with the general pension system. It’s unclear exactly how the merger would work, but public employees are assuming the worst and are fighting any changes at all.
And, it wouldn’t be a strike in France without left-wing loons making their presence felt.
As commuters in Paris turned to using bikes and scooters, the environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion claimed responsibility for the sabotage of 3,600 electric scooters in Paris and other French cities, saying the green image of the fashionable gadgets hid an “ecologically catastrophic” reality.
Extinction Rebellion said it had sabotaged 3,600 scooters, including more than 2,000 in Paris as well as in Bordeaux and Lyon, by obscuring the QR codes that riders use to unlock them with their smartphones.
“Contrary to their reputation as a ‘soft’ or ‘green’ way of getting around, the electric scooters are ecologically catastrophic,” the group said in a statement on its French Facebook page.
The radicals won’t be satisfied until we have to walk to work.
Macron is trying to take a more market-friendly approach to governance, but any move to free up labor from the chokehold unions have on workers is met with fierce resistance. And as the strike illustrates, the unions see any challenge to their power as a threat.
According to a recent poll, 76 percent of the French people want pension reform, but 64 percent don’t trust Macron to get it right. It begs the question: just who should be mocking who in public?