Thousands across France protest Macron’s ‘brutal’ policies

PARIS — Thousands of protesters marched under tight security in eastern Paris on Saturday after French labour unions, left-wing political parties and civil rights groups called for “floods of people” to oppose the pro-business policies of President Emmanuel Macron.

Marches and rallies were also held in dozens of other French cities as part of the joint action against Macron’s economic policies that organizers consider “brutal” and imbalanced.

At the Paris event, Philippe Martinez, head of leading French union CGT, advised the president to “look out the window of his palace to see real life.”

Police estimated that 21,000 people took part in the Paris protest, while CGT put the number at 80,000.

More than 1,500 police officers were mobilized in the French capital to prevent activists not associated with the official protest from disrupting the march and causing damage, which has happened during previous recent demonstrations.

Police said they detained 39 people in Paris before and after the march started, including 26 were put into custody. Most of them were preemptively taken in for questioning after officers searched their bags and found “equipment” that could be used to cause damage or to hide their faces.

A few others, mainly youths dressed in black with their faces covered, were detained on the sidelines of the main protest for breaking a window at a business or damaging bus shelters. Police used tear gas canisters to push them back. Seven officers were slightly injured mainly by thrown debris.

Unions, opposition parties and other groups were particularly denouncing a Macron-led overhaul of labour rules that would reduce worker protections and laws increasing police powers.

They allege that Macron supports tax reform that favours France’s wealthiest and is working to tear down public services. They also oppose a government plan making it harder for students to attend the public universities of their choice, more restrictive immigration laws and police methods in underprivileged neighbourhoods that protesters consider “repressive.”

In the southern port city of Marseille, Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of the far-left Defiant France party, also addressed Macron while speaking to demonstrators.

“In the name of the poor, the humiliated, the homeless and the jobless, we are telling you, ‘Enough, enough of this world,’” Melenchon said.

Macron, a centrist former investment banker, says his economic changes are meant to increase France’s global competitiveness. In an interview with BFM TV on Friday, the French leader said that those who protest will not manage to “block the country.”

“No disorder will stop me, and calm will return,” Macron said.

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