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Tear gas, arrests in new anti-Macron demo in Paris

By AFP - Jan 18,2020 - Last updated at Jan 18,2020

Musicians perform in front of the Palais Garnier during a demonstration of striking employees of the Opera Garnier and the Comedie Francaise, against the French government’s plan to overhaul the country’s retirement system in Paris on Saturday (AFP photo)

PARIS — French police fired tear gas under a rain of projectiles and arrested several people on Saturday as thousands of “yellow vest” anti-government protesters returned to the streets of Paris.

Demonstrators shouted slogans denouncing the police, President Emmanuel Macron and his pension reforms that have triggered the longest French transport strike in decades.

This was the latest of the weekly demonstrations held every Saturday by the yellow vest movement since November 2018, and which have been boosted by opposition to the pension reforms.

Police said 15 people were arrested after police tried to disperse a bloc at the head of the protest in northern Paris.

“The street is ours,” some protesters chanted. “Macron, we’re going to come for you, in your home.”

Police fired tear gas as they came under a hail of projectiles, AFP reporters witnessed.

Annie Moukam, a 58-year-old teacher, said too many people in France were suffering.

“We’re suffocating with this government who wants to put us on our knees,” Moukam said.

“It’s out of the question that he [Macron] touches our pensions. We have worked all our lives to be able to leave with a dignified retirement,” she said. “It’s exactly that that he is challenging.”

The rallies came on the 45th day of a strike that has hit train and metro traffic and caused misery for millions of commuters in Paris especially.

Trains are becoming more frequent, however, and Paris’s metro drivers voted to suspend their action from Monday, their union Unsa announce on Saturday.

Macron’s reforms aim to forge a single pensions system from the country’s 42 separate regimes.

The various systems currently in place offer early retirement and other benefits to some public-sector workers as well as lawyers, physical therapists and even Paris Opera employees.

Critics say the reforms it will effectively force millions of people to work longer for a smaller pension.

The transport unions have joined forces with the yellow vests, who accuse Macron of ruling on behalf of an urban elite while ignoring people in the provinces and the countryside, many of whom struggle to make ends meet.

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