PARIS (AP) — Bolstered French police forces clashed with demonstrators in numerous cities Tuesday as hundreds of thousands of marchers protested President Emmanuel Macron's unpopular retirement reform.
Security was ramped up for the 10th round of protest marches since January after the government warned that some demonstrators intended "to destroy, to injure and to kill."
The Interior Ministry put the number of demonstrators nationwide at 740,000, down from more than 1 million five days ago when protesters voiced their rage at Macron's order to ram the bill raising France's legal retirement age from 62 to 64 through parliament without a vote. The Paris police counted 93,000 in Paris compared with 119,000 last Thursday, when violence reached a peak.
In a bid to keep up pressure on the government to simply withdraw its retirement measure, unions organising the protests called for new strikes and marches on April 6.
In a sign that protests may be losing a little steam, sanitation workers in Paris announced that they are suspending their more than three-week-long strike that has left piles of stinking garbage uncollected on the capital's streets. Growing piles of rotting garbage in the French capital became a symbol of the larger protests.
The CGT union, which organised the strikes, said in a statement that workers will return to their jobs Wednesday. It was unclear whether private companies responsible for keeping some Paris districts clean will return to work.
Concerns that violence could mar the demonstrations prompted what Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin described as an unprecedented deployment of 13,000 officers, nearly half of them concentrated in the French capital.
A group of security forces in Paris at one point withdrew behind the wooden doors of a residential building during hours-long standoffs against ultra-leftist militants attacking with various projectiles and fireworks. A fire raged outside the door.
After months of upheaval, an exit from the firestorm of protest triggered by Macron's changes to France's retirement system looked as far away as ever. Despite fresh union pleas that the government pause its hotly contested push to raise France's legal retirement age, Macron seemingly remained wedded to it.
His order to use a special constitutional power to ram the reform past legislators without allowing them a vote galvanised the protest movement.
The Eiffel Tower's website announced that strikers had closed down the world-famous tourist attraction. The Louvre Museum was similarly strike-bound Monday.