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Security fears after Macron confronted by protesters in Paris

President Emmanuel Macron's security arrangements were brought into question on Wednesday after he was confronted by protesters calling for his resignation while strolling in a public garden on France's national holiday.

Security fears after Macron confronted by protesters in Paris
The confrontation happened after Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron attended the Bastille Day parade. Photo: AFP

A group of anti-government 'yellow vest' demonstrators spotted Macron and started following him, hurling abuse, as he and his wife Brigitte walked with bodyguards in the Tuileries Gardens near the Louvre Museum in Paris on Tuesday.

In a video posted on the Gilets Jaunes Infos page on Facebook, what appears to be a few dozen protesters boo and shout “Macron demission!” (Macron resign) as they surround the presidential party, many filming on their phones.

“It's incredible, we've stumbled upon the thorn in our side,” one protester is heard saying.

 
 

Jupiter qui explique que les français ne sont pas des modèles de respect. On lui rappelle qui lui paye son salaire ? Et son fameux : « soyez cool les mecs » déjà culte ?‍♀️

Posted by Gilets Jaunes Infos on Tuesday, 14 July 2020

 

Macron engages in a close encounter with agitated men who wave fingers in his face while complaining about police heavy-handedness against protesters and about economic inequality.

The heated exchange, with security guards looking on, lasted about six minutes.

“It poses a real security problem,” the head of the opposition rightwing Republicans party, Christian Jacob, told French television. “How can the president of the republic take such risks?”

Leftist leader Jean-Luc Melenchon said Macron should have been more “cautious” as “a president walking in the Tuileries where there are so many people should expect to come across detractors”.

Macron is seen repeatedly urging the group to “be cool,” while taking time to listen to some of their gripes.

He said he understood their “feeling of injustice” but in response to complaints about alleged police abuses, he pointed out that “there are also violent people among yourselves”.

“This is a public holiday, I am taking a walk with my wife, and you are heckling me,” Macron tells one of them.

The exchange ends with one protester thanking Macron for listening, and saying: “I cannot even curse at him” as the president turns to leave.   

“All the better!” replied Macron, who had earlier presided over a Bastille Day ceremony.

According to an official count, about 2,500 demonstrators and 1,800 law enforcement agents have been injured in weekly yellow vest protests that kicked off in November 2018.

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POLITICS

Macron faces strike as French unions flex muscles

French schools, trains and businesses are set to be affected on Thursday by the first major strike called since the re-election of President Emmanuel Macron in April, as unions push for wage hikes and the end of planned pension reform.

Macron faces strike as French unions flex muscles

The extent of disruption remains uncertain, however, with the strike a test for the CGT union behind the protests, which is seeking to build support for a lengthy battle with the centrist government.

Macron has approved wage hikes for civil servants and teachers and put in place one of Europe’s most generous anti-inflation safety nets that has capped energy prices for households and held down inflation.

But his insistence on raising the retirement age from its current level of 62 — one of his main re-election campaign pledges — has stirred up unions and other left-wing opponents and remains broadly unpopular around the country.

“We are against pushing back the age of retirement because we consider it an aberration when there are so many unemployed people in this country,”

Philippe Martinez, the head of the CGT, told the BFM broadcaster on Tuesday.

“Keeping people with work in their work means that people who haven’t got any can’t find it,” he added.

Despite warnings from allies about the risk of failure, Macron has tasked his government with hiking the retirement age from the current age of 62, one of the lowest in Europe, with changes set to take effect next year.

With deficits spiralling and public debt at historic highs, the former investment banker has argued that pushing back pensions and getting more people into jobs are the only ways the state can raise revenue without increasing taxes.

His centrist party lost its majority in parliament in June, severely undermining his ability to push through changes.

Macron’s Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne nevertheless told AFP Thursday that the government would not seek to tack on the pension reform to a wider social security budget law as initially planned.

“There are important questions we want to open talks about” with other political parties, unions and employers’ groups, Borne said.

“We’re starting from the assumption that we’ll be able to hold a dialogue,” she added — although parts of the opposition completely reject any changes.

“If the president insists on declaring a social war on the people, we will respond with all the means at our disposal,” the parliamentary leader of the France Unbowed (LFI) political party, Mathilde Panot, tweeted on Wednesday.

Stoppages

Thursday’s strike has been called by the CGT, France’s second-biggest union, with backing from smaller partners Solidaires and FSU.

The influential CFDT and hard-left FO unions have declined to take part, underlining splits in the country’s once formidable labour movement which has struggled to stop Macron’s economic and social security reforms since he came to power in 2017.

Around one in 10 schools in Paris are expected to shut for the day on Thursday, while 300 will close in the southern Bouches-du Rhone area which includes Marseille.

“We can really see that teachers are fed up with their salaries… if on top of that, there’s the issue of pensions, it risks creating  some sparks,” said Guislaine David from the Snuipp-FSU union.

SNCF railways and the RATP metro system in Paris are also bracing for disruption to services, while employees of oil and gas giant TotalEnergies have been on strike since Tuesday.

Despite anger over the soaring cost of living, Macron is in a hurry to push through pension reform, which he first promised in 2017 before pausing in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I don’t know anyone who wants to work for longer, but I don’t know anyone who thinks they are not going to work for longer,” a minister close to the president told AFP last week on condition of anonymity.

“Maybe I’m mistaken, but I’m not sure that the turnout will be as large as the unions and LFI are hoping for,” the minister said.

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