Demonstrations in France, between 1 and 2 million in the streets

Success for the marches against Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform

ANSA Editorial StaffPARIS

January 19, 2023

The French took to the streets, beyond all expectations, to protest against Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform project, and more specifically against the increase in the retirement age from 62 to 64.

Successful demonstrations everywhere, one million and 120,000 according to the Ministry of the Interior, which expected 750,000 people.

Even two million for the CGT, the union of the extreme left. Macron, in Spain for the bilateral summit with Madrid, calls for a “just and responsible” reform. The tug of war with unions and oppositions promises to be long and difficult, the second appointment already set for January 31st.

According to polls, more than 60% of French citizens oppose this pension reform which – according to the majority – serves to “save our system”. Initially, the retirement age was set by the government at 65, an age to be reached gradually in 2030, then it dropped to 64 after negotiations with the moderate right of the Républicains, who will support the reform in Parliament. All the rest of the parties – from Marine Le Pen’s far right to Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s radical left – are against it. Even more striking, in a union landscape that has been fragmented for years, the unity of all acronyms has returned, from the centrists to the communists of the CGT, passing from the left of the CFDT and the autonomous. They unite against the increase in the age to leave work, a measure judged unacceptable by all. Months of discussions with the government were useless, which – as Macron reiterated today – remains firm on his positions: “The reform was presented in a democratic way and validated”.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in 200 cities in France, from 80,000 in Paris (according to the police, 400,000 for the union) to 30,000 in Marseille, 40,000 in Toulouse, 25,000 in Nantes. Despite the fears of the eve, there were very few accidents. In Paris, 38 people were arrested, a very small toll compared to the times of the yellow vest violence. In Paris in particular, the dreaded black bloc only showed up in the initial phase, then they were promptly isolated by the police, deployed in 10,000 units by the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin. The departure of the procession had been set at place della République at 2 pm but the crowd was so large as to make the start of the procession very slow. After some scuffles before the Bastille, the forces of the

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne congratulated union leaders on the uneventful conduct of the demonstrations. Important participation also in the strike, especially in schools and in transport, with heavy inconvenience especially for trains and subways. Electricity production severely decreased due to EDF public sector workers’ participation in the strike.
The battle promises to be long, the unions emerge reassured from this first day but appear aware that the fight is just beginning, with the bill that will be discussed in Parliament in February and March. Already in the evening, the union leaders – triumphant for the “over two million French” who followed them to the streets, according to their calculations – made an appointment for a second day of mobilisation, on January 31st.