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Article posted by: White Nation correspondent – Paris – December 13 2019





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  • Half a million protesters marched in several cities on Thursday in the largest nationwide strikes in decades
  • Disruption comes days after President Macron appeared to be caught mocking Trump at NATO conference
  • Some 65 people arrested in Paris as hooded youths lit fires, looted stores and hurled fireworks at officers
  • Around 90 per cent of high-speed TGV trains were cancelled and 30 per cent of flights were grounded
  • Police in Paris barricaded the presidential palace and deployed 6,000 officers to deal with demonstrators






MORE  than 800,000 demonstrators marched on cities throughout France today, with railway workers, teachers and hospital staff joining the largest strike in decades. Authorities in Paris barricaded the presidential palace and deployed some 6,000 police as activists, many in yellow vests, gathered for a major march aimed at forcing President Emmanuel Macron to abandon his pension reform plans.  Officers were forced to use tear gas to disperse rioters who set fire to a vehicle and smashed windows as tensions heightened close to the Place de la Republique square.

A construction trailer was overturned and set on fire, sending a huge plume of smoke into the sky, as hooded youths lit fires, looted high-end stores and hurled fireworks at officers, reports said. The disruption comes a day after President Emmanuel Macron was caught mocking Donald Trump behind his back in a hot mic incident with Boris Johnson  and Justin Trudeau at the NATO summit in London.  President Trump cut short his trip to London on Wednesday, branding the Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau ‘two-faced’ after he joked about the time Trump had taken during a press conference.  Macron desperately scrambled out of the diplomatic blunder, telling reporters: ‘I am not going to comment on stolen videos. That video wasn’t supposed to be filmed in that room.’ Tens of thousands of French workers took to the streets on Thursday to protest at planned pension reforms causing severe transport disruption that is set to be extended into Friday.

Who’s laughing now, Macron? France is paralyzed by worst nationwide strike for decades, with schools shutting and public transport grinding to a halt, as furious public sector workers protest pension reforms


19:00 – 800, 000 demonstrate across France

The Ministry of Interior in France said 800,000 people demonstrated across the country on Thursday, including 65,000 in Paris. Two previous mass protests against pension reforms in France in 2010 drew well over one million marchers. The CGT union said 1.5 million people hit the streets nationwide. In the capital as well as in the southeastern city of Lyon and western city of Nantes police fired teargas to disperse small groups of rioters but protests were mainly peaceful. Unions believe President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms will leave many worse off after retirement or force them to work longer. They are determined to carry on. With the situation now mostly under control in Paris we have ended our live blog for the night. But the strike will continue on Friday . Here are just a couple of tweets to highlight the situation in Paris as commuters face try to get home with little public transport. For some the strikes have meant a rare seat on the Metro and for others it means a long walk home.

And here’s a video put together by Alex Dunham that compares the scenes in Paris today to the last major transport strike in 1995.

Here’s part of the latest round up from AFP:



16:30 – Violence flares at Place de la République in Paris

Store windows were smashed and objects set ablaze near Place de la Republique in Paris on Thursday afternoon as trouble flared duyring the protest march against pensions.

Full story – Tear gas fired on Paris strike demo as rioters smash windows and set fires

Reports suggested a hardcore group of black-clad protesters formed among the marchers before setting objects in the street ablaze and smashing store windows.

Police responded by firing teargas into the crowds.

Images on social media showed the trouble breaking out. Police revealed that by 4.30 pm around 70 people had been arrested and 9,000 preventative stop and search checks had taken place.

16.00 – What will happen on Friday?

Although some unions have only signed up for a one-day strike others are in it for the long haul, while some others have said they will review how the first day went then make a decision. Some teaching unions will go back and a many schools have told parents that they will be operating as normal on Friday (although others will have no after school care or canteens because auxiliary staff are striking). Unions on Paris transport network RATP have confirmed they will be striking until Monday so services in Paris will again be severely limited. Air traffic control and airline ground crews will stay out, so airlines have again been asked to reduce their flights over France by 20 percent on Friday. This means more cancellations and again affects all airlines that operate in, out or over France. Rail unions will also stay out so the service on SNCF trains will be at roughly the same level as Thursday – 90 percent of trains cancelled. The strike involves signal workers so affects all trains going through France, including Eurostar and international operators like Thalys and Lyria.

15.45 – Turnout for the strikers

So how many people actually downed tools today? If France you don’t need to belong to a union to strike, and although public transport workers have to give their bosses 48 notice of their intention to strike, other workers do not.

Here are some early figures for strike levels;

Teachers – 51.1 percent of primary teachers and 42.3 percent of secondary school teachers were on strike

SNCF rail staff – 85.7 percent

Workers at electricity provider EDF – 43.9 percent

The big question for unions is how many people will stay out if the strike action continues into days or weeks. French workers do not get strike pay and lose what roughly works out at a day’s pay for every day they strike.

During long-running strikes unions often run cagnottes (collection pots) for donations from the public which are given to striking workers experiencing financial difficulties.

For more on how striking works in France see – Striking in France: What are the rules and do workers get paid?

15:25 – Paris march draws thousands of protesters (and 6,000 police)

Among the marchers in Paris were two ‘yellow vests’ who had joined the protest.Marijane told The Local: “We want to change the world – we’re tired of a small handful letting the little people die. “We want revolution.” On the subject of violence, they said: “Certainly there will be violence. There is a call from the Black Bloc, who come from all different countries. But we are the hostages because they are going to blame us.” Laurence, 55, who works at the Pôle Emploi unemployment office said: “It’s always a good thing to revolt and be a player in the drama. “Retirement, the nearer you get, the further away it gets. And especially for women. And with this reform, it will be even less favourable to women.”

You can read more about the march and the tight security surrounding it HERE.

14:40: Tens of thousands of protesters on the streets across the country

French authorities say there were at least 180,000 thousand protesters out on the streets across France on Thursday to demonstrate their opposition against the government’s planned pension reforms. That figure didn’t include those marching in Paris, Lyon and Marseille, France’s three biggest cities. The final figure for the number of marchers will be announced later on Thursday. In all there were some 235 planned demos across France on Thursday. There were 20.000 protesters in Montpellier, 19,000 in Nantes, 15.000 in Clermont-Ferrand, 10.500 in Tours et 10.000 in Rennes. The biggest demo in Paris got underway at 2pm. Most demonstrations took place in a calm atmosphere but there were reports of flare-ups in Rennes and Nantes. Images posted on social media showed police firing tear gas at protesters in the two western cities.

The image below shows people taking part in a demonstration to protest against the pension overhauls in Montpellier.


Images on social media later on Thursday showed clashed between police and protesters in the southern city.

This was the seen in the south western city of Perpignan.

And in Marseille firefighters joined the protests.

There were also clashes in Bordeaux.


13:45 – BREAKING NEWS – Paris transport unions to continue strike until Monday

Unions representing workers for the Paris transport authority announced on Thursday afternoon that they wouldcontinue their strike until Monday. This was largely expected given what they had said in advance of the strike. Unions voted on Thursday to prolong the strike action meaning transport in the French capital will be severely disrupted until Monday at least. Nearly all the striking workers voted to remain off the job until Monday, Thierry Babec of UNSA union said, adding that the network would remain “at a virtual standstill” if the government did not abandon the reforms.Laurent Djebali had warned in Le Parisien newspaper earlier this week that the most important day for them was not Thursday or Friday or even the weekend. “The crucial day is Monday,” he said. “We are ready to carry on until Christmas.” Unions and the government will be watching closely how well supported the strikes are on Monday compared to Thursday as this will give a sign as to how long they might go on for. Paris transport bosses at RATP had already said that if the strike carried on the weekend of December 7th and 8th would be a ‘sacrifice weekend and they would concentrate their sparse resources on Monday. Many Parisians have already opted to take Thursday and Friday as days off work, but on Monday the network could struggle to cope as everyone returns to work. It is therefore likely that transport services in the capital over the weekend will be even more limited than those running on Thursday and Friday.


13:30 ‘They are in a difficult situation’

If you thought that Parisians would be angry about the travel chaos caused by the strikes today then think again. Many are sympathetic towards the strikers and support their battle against President Macron’s pension reforms, as our reporter Ingri Bergo found out when she talked to many. They might change their minds however is the strike rumbles on until Christmas.

13.15 Paris tourist attractions forced to close

Several of Paris’  major tourist attractions have been forced to close due to staff shortages. Although museum and tourist center staff are not striking, they do face transport difficulties in getting in to work. The Eiffel Tower and the Orsay museum were shut because of staff shortages, while the Louvre, the Pompidou Center and other museums warned that some wings and exhibits were closed.

13.00 Protesters arrive for the Paris march

Protesters are arriving at Gare du Nord for the main march through Paris, which is due to start at 2pm.


12:50 – ‘Real test for Macron is on Monday’

Our columnist John Lichfield had this to say about today’s strike.“Most French people seem to have shrugged their shoulders and offered themselves an extra holiday,” he said. “Road traffic approaching Paris is well down on a normal day. Those Metro lines which are working are empty. It will be much the same tomorrow, which will become an unofficial “pont” or holiday bridge to the weekend.. “The real test for both Macron and the unions will come on Monday.  Can the militant union federations keep the protests going for weeks as they did in 1995? The fact that more Metro lines than expected are open today suggest that anger levels are not as high as predicted. We will know early next week.”



12:45 – Police taking no chances in Paris

Police are out in force in Paris on Thursday and fear the protest March from Gare du Nord to Nation could be hijacked by a violent minority of extremists. By midday they say had made over 3,000 precautionary checks on people and have made 18 arrests.

12:30 – Are the French always on strike?


12.20 – Road blockades worsen

Seven of France’s eight oil depots are now blocked by protesters, which will likely have a knock on effect at filling stations around the country. (CLICK HERE for interactive map to find out the latest on shortages around France). The blockades started last week in a separate protest over fuel taxes, but today unions are joining blockades in the strike action. Adrien Cornet of the CGT union who was at the blockade of the Grandpuits-Bailly-Carrois depot in the northern Seine-et-Marne département, told French media he would not be moving until Macron “throws his reform away”. Across the country ‘yellow vests’ are also staging roundabout protests which are blocking roads in Rouen and the Manche and Bouches-du-Rhone départements. Marches in Calais have disrupted traffic and the port of Boulogne has been blocked to cars.

12pm – Protests get underway across France

In total around France there are 245 registered protests today, including the above pictured one in Marseille as unions and striking workers gather to express their opposition to the government reforms. There is a big protests planned for Paris – whichpolice fear violence at from Black Bloc infiltrators – which is due to start at 2pm.

11.30 Calm and prepared mood in Paris

Our reporter Ingri Bergo, who is out and about in Paris, said: “ None of the Parisians I have spoken to so far seemed bothered about the strike, even if they didn’t support its aims. “Everyone seems very prepared with a lot of people using bikes. The few people I’ve seen running around looking flustered had big suitcases and were probably tourists caught out by the strikes.” She added: “There have been lots of RATP transport staff around as well to help people out, so I think that’s keeping people calm.” In fact the biggest complaint heard so far on the streets has been about the freezing temperatures.

11.20 – Paris workers remain sympathetic to strikers

Despite the difficulties of their morning commute, many Paris workers said they sympathized with the aims of the strikers. Workers in France enjoy strong social protection and many people are aware of the connection between a strong union movement and social rights for workersRead herewhat the Paris commuters we spoke to this morning had to say on the subject. A retired transport worker trying to make his way home to the Paris suburbs told us: “No social progress has ever been given for free. We need to respect the rights we have won in the past and not throw them away.”

11:00 You’d expect chaos but…

Many people are taking to Twitter to post pics of empty trains and Metro carriages. While we might have expected scenes of commuters crushing to get on to available Metro services it’s actually been very calm. And it was the same on the roads with authorities reporting half the usual amount of rush hour traffic jams around Paris this morning. Workers appear to be either staying at home or peddling/scooting/walking to work.



10:50 – Shopkeepers and store owners suffer from loss of festive trade

READ ALSO: Strikes leave French shopkeepers fearing another Christmas slump

“Obviously we’ll lose money,” said Azar Hagege, the owner of a small shoe shop called Djena, situated in what is usually a lively shopping street in the 2nd arrondissement, a little south of Strasbourg Saint Denis. Saturday is the big day for shopkeepers like Hagege, who said he worries the transport networks remain paralysed over the weekend. “We won’t have any customers in that case,” he said.

10:40 – Fuel depots blocked

Groups of ‘yellow vest‘ protesters have blocked fuel depots in the Var department in the south and near the city of Orleans, it has been reported. Other oil refineries have been hit by strike action. Blockades of fuel depots by construction workers in recent days has left petrol stations running out of fuel, particularly in the west. Authorities blame drivers panic buying fuel in fear of ending up with an empty tank. On Thursday over 200 petrol stations had totally run out of fuel while over 400 were almost out of stock.


Read more about the nation-wide riots HERE