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‘On E Là’

Thousands of people recently marched from the top of Fourier Hill to the ruins of the centuries-old Roman theatre, staging protests against President Emmanuel Jean-Michel Frédéric Macron‘s move to raise the pension age from 62 to 64. They were heard shouting: “On e Là” (“We are here”). Protesters also claimed that no one could stop them.

The President’s decision has rocked France, with people taking to the streets in major cities, including Paris, Bordeaux, Marseille and Lyon. Perhaps, the Western European nation is experiencing such a huge protest for the first time in recent years. The French people usually behave like extremists when it comes to issues related to pension. Such protests had taken place during the Presidency of Jacques René Chirac, too. People opposed the decision of Chirac, who had served as President of France from 1995 to 2007, to raise the retirement age of some civil servants. At that period of time, France had experienced its biggest protests in decades that prompted the Chirac Administration to stop implementing reform programmes.

France has the lowest retirement age among industrialised countries in Europe. As per the official record, nearly 14% of Government spending goes to pay pensions to retirees. In such a situation, the Macron Government decided to raise the retirement age in an attempt to tackle the price hike. However, protesters are of the opinion that the Government made the move in an undemocratic manner… by using its Constitutional Power.

In Paris, a young lady protester was holding a placard that read: “Macron, voleur de vie!” (“Macron has stolen our lives!“). She told the press that the Government wanted people to work till their death. She further opposed the argument presented by the Government that the retirement age could be increased, as there was an increase in life expectancy, too. Meanwhile, the French Police detained 36 people on March 17 evening after protesters set the City Hall on fire in Lyon.

Protesters also gathered at Place de la Bastille, a square in Paris, on March 14, 2023. Street protest is one of the integral parts of French traditions. The recent gathering made it clear that the French people still follow their tradition. As per the official data, nearly 1.24 million people staged protests across France that day. However, the trade unions claimed that 3.45 million protesters were on the streets.

Protest marches in Paris have always had a distinctive cultural character. Demonstrations often include the performance of Swan Lake or comedies by 17th Century playwright Molière (born Jean-Baptiste Poquelin; January 15, 1622 – February 17, 1673). This time, protesters clashed with the Police, prompting the latter to use tear gas. They are ready to continue demonstrations until the Macron Administration changes its decision.

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