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Protesters set fire to Bordeaux town hall amid anger over pension reform


Protesters angered by the government’s forcing through of plans to raise France’s retirement age set fire to the town hall in Bordeaux on Thursday in the latest of a series of violent protests that are rocking the country.

A rally against the controversial reform kicked off in the afternoon in Paris with the participation of violent groups.

It marked the ninth day of a planned mobilization since January, with thousands of workers protesting and walking out in various sectors, including transportation, energy and education.

Violent groups infiltrated a parade in Paris and engaged in vandalism and set fire to dumpsters and trash, according to an Anadolu correspondent on the ground.

While the demonstrations in the capital were relatively peaceful in the beginning, they soon got off course and turned violent when groups set fire to building gates.

Police used tear gas to disperse them.

Tensions ran extremely high in the cities of Bordeaux and Lyon. Besides setting fire to Bordeaux’s town hall, violent groups targeted banks and threw bottles at police in Lyon, the Le Figaro daily reported.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told reporters that 172 people were arrested, including 77 in Paris, for starting fires and plundering and that 140 fires were set in Paris.

He added that 149 police officers were injured by projectiles and deplored that “some lawbreakers wanted to kill police officers.”

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne on Twitter described the acts of violence as “unacceptable.”

– Pension reform plan, source of popular furor

The French government used special constitutional powers last week to force the pension reform plan through, prompting opposing parties to submit no-confidence motions that were later rejected.

Macron and Borne decided to invoke Article 49.3 of the constitution, a mechanism that lets the government adopt a draft bill without parliamentary approval.

The decision was driven by fear that lawmakers would be able to block the reform as the government does not hold an absolute majority in the legislature.

The government revealed the reform project in January and parliament started examining and debating the draft bill the following month.

Workers and trade unions have expressed growing outrage by holding demonstrations and walkouts.

The reform project includes raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030, requiring at least 43 years of work to be eligible for a full pension.

*Umit Donmez in Paris contributed to this story.

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