French police officers clash with ‘violent activists’
More than 3000 police officers are set to confront up 1,500 “violent activists” from among a crowd of 10,000 protesters today.
Explosive demostrations have already begun at Saint Solines in central France, where climate activists are staging a “high-risk” protest against new agricultural irrigation infrastructure. The protest is distinct from the pension reform outcry that has blighted the country and seen widespread violence.
Despite the global focus on the pension reform demonstrations, reports suggest that the police’s greatest concern is the Saint Solines protest.
Video footage from the scene shows protesters throwing petrol bombs and burning police vehicles.
Flying objects pepper the battered line of vehicles as smoke billows into the air.
This comes in the wake of a humiliating postponement of King Charles III’s state visit to France, amid the ongoing violence in the country over Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms.
A former French ambassador to the UK, Sylvie Bermann, said it would have been “impossible” for Mr Macron to have hosted the King during civil unrest in the country.
Demostrations began when the decision was taken to force through contentious pension reforms, which would see the working age increase to 64 from 62.
French prime minister Élisabeth Borne employed a special constitutional power, called Article 49:3, to force through the reforms without a vote.
In response, centrist politicians tabled a no-confidence motion. However, the motion fell short of the 287 votes needed.
Had it passed, Mr Macron would have had to hold fresh elections or name a new government.
The French president insisted that the reforms are necessary as their current pension scheme is unaffordable.
But this isn’t a view that is universally accepted across the National Assembly.
Generation Frexit President Charles Henri-Gallois told Express.co.uk that the outcry “means he does not have control of his country anymore. He can no longer pretend it’s business as usual.
“He has no more legitimacy in France or across the rest of the world.”
Images of the town hall of Bordeaux – a city the King and Queen Consort were due to visit – set alight by protesters on Thursday evening were symbolic of the ire felt by many at the reforms.
Mr Macron is said to have spoken with the King to relay the reasons for needing to postpone the scheduled trip in a move that is being seen as embarrassing for the French leader.
At a press conference on Friday, the president said the four-day state visit was likely to be rescheduled for the beginning of summer.
Ms Bermann told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it was a “real frustration” to have to delay Charles’ visit after a breakthrough in cross-Channel relations.
Since Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister in October, relations have been noticeably warmer between France and Britain, with a UK-France summit earlier this month leading to an agreement to increase joint efforts to prevent migrants crossing the Channel to Britain in small boats.
The state visit was aimed at further strengthening ties between Britain and its continental neighbour using the “soft diplomacy” deployed by members of the royal family.
Ms Bermann said: “It is a real frustration and I think until the last minute the president wanted to maintain the visit.
“But it was impossible, not only because of security but because it wouldn’t have been the best conditions.
“It is true that the dinner in Versailles would not have given a good image while there is unrest in France.”