As protest demonstrations were again held around the world on Saturday in a gathering momentum following the death in the US of George Floyd, a black man suffoctaed by a Minneapolis police officer, thousands of people joined marches across French cities to highlight cases of police violence, including in Paris where two banned rallies blocked the centre of the capital.
Lawyers, students and feminist groups joined in the seventh day of national strike action and demonstrations against proposed pension reforms by mostly public sector employees on Friday, when unions claimed 350,000 turned out for a march across Paris – 31,000 according to independent estimates – timed when ministers met at a cabinet meeting to approve the substance and schedule for the reforms due to begin their passage through parliament next month, and which the government plans to set out in legislation before the summer recess.
The union-led opposition to the French government’s planned pension reforms, which has notably seen transport services severely disrupted since early December, saw another day of widespread strike action and demonstrations on Thursday, although accoring to official figures turnout in the nationwide street protests was down on previous marches.
Official estimates said estimated 150,000 homes, as well as businesses, suffered power cuts during Tuesday's union-led national strikes and protests called against President emmanuel Macron's proposed pensions reform, a strategy that the leader of one of the largest unions defended on Wednesday because 'spitting on the public service can make some of us angry', adding that 'we may amplify these kinds of methods'.
A day of strikes and demonstrations led by trades unions on Tuesday against the French government's planned overhaul of the pensions system mobilised strong support, with unions claiming a nationwide turnout in street marches of 1.8 million people, while interior ministry figures estimated the total numbers at 615,000.
Demonstrations accompanying rolling strikes against pension reforms that began Thursday and the latest 'Yellow Vest' protests against social inequalities were held over the weekend across France, upping pressure on the government ahead of more walkouts and protests called for next week.
France's trades unions claimed a nationwide turnout of 1.5 million people, estimated at 860,000 by the interior ministry, in marches and demonstrations that marked a general strike on Thursday by mostly public sector, but also private sector, workers in protest against planned reforms to the pension system, and which brought public transport to a virtual standstill.
Yellow vest demonstrators held marches in towns and cities across France on Saturday, as the social protest movement against falling living standards for low- and middle-income earners marks one year of consecutive weekly action, when the interior ministry claimed a nationwide turnout of about 28,000, the highest since April, while in Paris groups of troublemakers who burned vehicles and attacked commercial property clashed with police in Paris who made more than 120 arrests.
They said stresses of work have led to dozens of suicides among their ranks since beginning of year and denounced rising anti-police sentiment.
Metro stations were closed and violent clashes with police broke out in Paris on Saturday when a march calling for firm action on climate change was infiltrated by what appeared to be so-called 'black bloc' anarchists, damaging a bank and setting fire to a barricade, following earlier tear gas charges on Yellow Vest demonstrators in the centre of the capital, where trades union members also marched in protest at planned pension reforms.
Thousands of people joined a demonstration in Paris on Friday to demand greater political action to combat climate change, although estimates of the turnout, ranging from a police figure of 10,000 to the 30,000 claimed by organisers, were well below massive rallies held simultaneously in Germany and the US.
A newly introduced French law designed to combat the proliferation of false information on social media which may manipulate elections was tested this month for the first time, but not in the manner the government foresaw when it devised the legislation. Two communist politicians lodged a demand, under the articles of the law, for the removal of a message posted on Twitter by French interior minister Christophe Castaner, who falsely claimed that May Day demonstrators had attacked a Paris hospital and its staff. Géraldine Delacroix reports on how they lost their case, but won their demonstration that the law, as they put it, “serves no purpose”.
Nationwide street protests called by public sector workers' unions against government plans to reduce 120,000 jobs by 2022 drew between around 110,000-250,000 demonstrators according to, respectively, interior ministry estimates and those of unions, ahead of draft legislation due to be debated before parliament next week.
An 18th weekend of action in so-called 'yellow vest' protests against falling standards of living for low- and middle-income earners left about 60 people, including police officers, injured in Paris where stores, restaurants, banks and vehicles were set ablaze and more than 190 arrests were made.