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Protests turn violent in France as pensions fury rages against Macron

Hundreds of thousands of French workers have massed in a new show of anger against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform, with protests turning violent in Paris and other cities in a confrontation that shows no sign of abating.

France’s interior minister said 123 members of the police or gendarmerie had been injured in clashes during Thursday’s nationwide protests.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin also said on Twitter that 80 people had been arrested during the demonstrations which brought nearly 1.1 million people to the streets across the country.

Those who were detained were suspected mostly of possessing illegal weapons or planning to damage property or commit acts of violence, police said.

More than 100,000 protesters were reported in the capital, Paris.

The nationwide figure still fell short of the 1.28 million people who marched on March 7, according to government figures.

Unions claimed a record 3.5 million people turned out across France and 800,000 in the capital.

The uproar over the imposition of the reform — which the government chose to push through without a parliamentary vote — has turned into the biggest domestic crisis of Macron’s second term in office.

It also threatens to cast a shadow over Sunday’s visit to France of King Charles III, the first foreign visit he has made as monarch.

“I found him very authoritarian. He doesn’t listen,” Solange Le Nuz, a 28-year-old engineer protesting in Paris, told AFP news agency.

Police and protesters again clashed on the streets of the capital during a major demonstration, security forces firing teargas and charging crowds with batons.

Some protesters lit fires in the street, setting ablaze pallets and piles of uncollected rubbish, prompting firefighters to intervene, AFP correspondents said.

In Paris, several hundred black-clad radical demonstrators were breaking windows of banks, shops and fast-food outlets, and destroying street furniture, AFP journalists witnessed.

In the western city of Rennes, one protester held up a sign reading: “I want to grow old with my lover, not with my boss.”

Half of France’s high-speed train services were cancelled, and rubbish is still piled up in the streets of Paris because of stoppages by garbage collectors.

Anger surged after a defiant Macron said on Wednesday he was prepared to accept unpopularity over the pensions reform which he said was “necessary”.

He also said that the pension changes needed to “come into force by the end of the year”.

A survey on Sunday showed Macron’s personal approval rating at just 28 percent, its lowest since the anti-government “Yellow Vest” protest movement in 2018-2019.

READ MORE: Anger at Macron mounts as French unions hold new protests”

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