Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Friday 31 March 2023 Dublin: 9°C
# fed up
Thousands throng streets of Paris in protest against President Emmanuel Macron
The French president has been in power for a year, but not everyone is happy with his sweeping social reforms.

France Protest Francois Mori / PA Images A protester carries a picture of Emmanuel Macron depicted as king Louis XIV during today's protests in Paris Francois Mori / PA Images / PA Images

THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE have demonstrated in central Paris amid a heavy police presence to protest against President Emmanuel Macron’s sweeping reforms, a year after he came to office.

Some 2,000 security forces including riot police were deployed as marchers gathered from midday in warm early summer sunshine in the central Opera square for a protest dubbed a “Party for Macron”, a tongue-in-cheek “celebration” of the 40-year-old centrist’s first anniversary in power.

Smaller rallies took place in the southern cities of Toulouse and Bordeaux while the Paris variant kicked off with a mass picnic which drew numerous families.

Organisers had urged participants to attend in a party mood – but the high security owed much to hundreds of black-clad youths having torched cars and a McDonald’s restaurant during traditional 1 May demonstrations in the capital, prompting fears that more “black bloc” protesters could hijack today’s event.

One protester held aloft a placard with the words ‘Mac-ron is disgusting’, a play on words to show his feelings about the president and the fast food chain.

Organisers insisted the march from Opera to the Bastille area, east of the city centre, would be “joyful and festive”.

‘Worried about violence’

But government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux had expressed fears yesterday that the demonstration could turn violent.

He noted that the protest’s name, the “Fete a Macron”, can have a double meaning in French – either celebrating someone, or trying to do them harm.

“We are worried that there could be violence, and so we’re reinforcing security measures,” Griveaux said, adding the police role was to ensure peaceful demonstrations could go ahead.

Some supporters of the left-wing populist La France Insoumise party (LFI) brandished anti-Macron banners with slogans including “down with the president of the rich”, “no to a social coup d’etat”, and “for a Sixth Republic.”

The protest is the latest in a series of large street demonstrations against Macron, whose overhauls of everything from the education system to the state rail operator have been causing friction with various groups.

‘Democracy does not mean shutting up’

The demonstration was organised by firebrand LFI lawmaker Francois Ruffin and other ex-members of the Nuit Debout (Up All Night) leftist movement that staged nocturnal rallies across France in 2016.

Ruffin told AFP this week that Macron may have won a democratic election last May but “democracy does not mean shutting up for five years”.

CORRECTION France Protest Francois Mori / PA Images Protesters wearing Guy Fawkes masks at the demonstrations today in Paris Francois Mori / PA Images / PA Images

“People have the right to challenge him,” said Ruffin, a journalist whose documentary “Merci Patron”, about a poor couple who take on France’s richest man, captured an angry zeitgeist and filled cinemas in 2015.

Numerous university faculties meanwhile remain blocked by protests against Macron’s plans to make university access more selective, causing major disruption to students starting their summer exams.

And yesterday marked the latest in a series of rail strikes as train drivers and other staff object to Macron’s overhaul of the SNCF, aimed at reducing its massive debts and making it more competitive.

Many French leftists have called for Macron’s opponents, from students to striking rail workers, to join forces in a re-run of the massive May 1968 protest movement that shook France exactly half a century ago.

© – AFP, 2018

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment

    Leave a commentcancel