Paris: Over one million people participated in demonstrations against the pension reform across France, according to the French Interior Ministry, while unions give the estimate at over three million, French media reported on Thursday.
The interior ministry said 1.089 million demonstrators took to the streets in France on Thursday, double the amount present at the previous manifestation on March 15, however, it was less than at the demonstrations on January 19, 31 and March 7, the Monde newspaper reported. Then, the number of protesters amounted to around 1.2 million, the report said.
France’s largest union, CGT, reported that a record 3.5 million people took part in the protests across the whole country, according to the media.
The Paris action gathered around 120,000 people, according to the police, and 800,000, according to the union.
Clashes between black bloc radicals and law enforcement officers broke out in the French capital during today’s protests. A RIA Novosti correspondent reported that the police used tear gas to disperse the protesters, who reached the Place de la Republique, and demanded that the area be cleared through loudspeakers. A water cannon was also seen at the scene.
As of Thursday evening, 80 people were detained across France, and some 120 police officers were injured, French Interior Ministry said.
Moreover, during a demonstration in the city of Rouen, a 40-year-old woman had her thumb blown off by a grenade, the TF1 broadcaster reported. Her injuries were seen to by medical workers. The report said the injured woman was a college teacher and had two children.
France’s leading unions announced that the 10th nationwide protest against the pension reform would take place on March 28, according to the BFMTV broadcaster.
Later in the day, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne commented on clashes between the demonstrators and police.
“The violence and damage we saw today are unacceptable. I am grateful to the police and emergency services that were mobilized,” Borne said on Twitter.
On March 16, Borne announced that the government had adopted a law on raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030 by invoking Article 49.3 of the constitution, which allowed the bill to get passed without parliamentary approval. The decision sparked a strong backlash, prompting people to take to the streets across the country.
The opposition tried to prevent the adoption of the law on Monday through a vote of no confidence in the French government, but failed to secure an absolute majority in the parliament twice.
There have been several nationwide strikes and hundreds of demonstrations in France within the last two months, with over 1 million people taking part in most of them. During the protests, clashes often broke out between the police and the protesters.