Police use tear gas in new 'yellow vest' protests in Paris

Demonstrators shouted slogans denouncing the police, President Macron and his pension reforms on Saturday.

    The movement has held weekly protests since November 2018 [File: Benoit Tessier/Reuters]
    The movement has held weekly protests since November 2018 [File: Benoit Tessier/Reuters]

    French police have fired tear gas at protesters hurling projectiles and arrested dozens of people as thousands of "yellow vest" anti-government protesters returned to the streets of Paris.

    Demonstrators on Saturday shouted slogans denouncing the police, President Emmanuel Macron and his pension reforms that have triggered the longest French transport strike in decades, which has snarled public transportation for millions of commuters in the French capital for 45 days.

    With sirens wailing, dozens of vans carrying riot police fanned out the route along which thousands of protesters marched.

    Young people wearing masks shouted "revolution" as tear gas drifted by the Bastille, the square where the French revolution erupted in 1789.

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

    At the Gare de l'Est railway station, dustbins were set on fire and windows were broken, according to local broadcaster Franceinfo. Fires were also reported near the Gare de Lyon.

    The police said at least 32 people were arrested. 

    While the Yellow Vest movement has held demonstrations every Saturday since November 2018, the numbers have swelled in recent weeks as union members opposed to Macron's proposed pension reform have also taken to the street. 

    The Yellow Vests are named after the high-visibility security bibs drivers in France are required to keep in their car and accuse Macron of ruling on behalf of an urban elite while ignoring people in the provinces and the countryside. 

    The march came a day after Macron and his wife Brigitte had to be rushed briefly from a Paris theatre after protesters tried to burst in and disrupt the performance.

    france strike
    Musicians perform in front of the Palais Garnier during a demonstration of striking employees of the Opera Garnier and the Comedie Francaise [Stephane de Sakutin/ AFP]

    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 will effectively force millions of people to work longer for a smaller pension.

    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."

    However, after six weeks of labour strikes, there are mounting signs of splits within the movement.

    Train services that had been severely disrupted by walkouts had seen notable improvements in recent days. On Saturday, Paris's metro drivers' union, UNSA, announced that drivers had voted to suspend their action starting on Monday. 

    The Louvre in Paris, the world's most visited museum, reopened on Saturday after being shut down by workers opposed to the pension overhaul.

    SOURCE: News agencies