Protests have erupted across the city of Paris in response to French President Emmanuel Macron raising the retirement age by two years on Thursday, a controversial decision that sidestepped a vote due to take place just minutes later in the National Assembly.
Macron and his supporters argue that the reform, which raised the retirement age from 62 to 64, was necessary to save the country’s pension system from bankruptcy. France’s lower house of parliament was due to vote on the reform, but Macron invoked Article 49.3, a constitutional provision that allows the measure to be passed without a parliamentary vote.
The debate mimics an ongoing discussion in the United States, as analysts predict the country’s Social Security program could default by the middle of the next decade. However, all proposals on the pension system, including raising the minimum age for access to its benefits, have come under scrutiny.
Videos of clashes between protesters and Paris police forces circulated on Twitter on Thursday evening in response to Macron’s decision. French broadcaster BFMTV released a compilation of videos taken in the Place de la Concorde – a square in Paris next to the National Assembly building – which captured several fires that were lit during the protests.
Another video posted by the Congress of Trade Unionsa trade union federation based in the United Kingdom, shows a large crowd gathered in the square with fires scattered throughout the crowd.
This emerges from a report by the British broadcaster Sky newsMacron’s decision also sparked protests in the French parliament, including some politicians who sang the French national anthem and held up plaques reading “No to 64”.
The Sky News report also showed police officers in riot gear throwing what they described as tear gas at the rioters. Another video from the broadcaster showed police rushing towards the crowd gathered at Place de la Concorde.
According to preliminary reports, at least 120 protesters were arrested Thursday night, according to a report by France Bleu.
In the US, some reforms proposed by the GOP include raising the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare from 67 to 70. Currently, every citizen born after 1960 is eligible for full retirement benefits at age 67.
Meanwhile, Democratic leaders, including President Joe Biden, have accused the GOP of wanting to cut Social Security as a whole. The issue is emerging as a potentially crucial issue in the 2024 presidential election, with some candidates like Republican Nikki Haley proposing a higher retirement age.
news week emailed the French Embassy in the US for comment.