As hundreds of thousands of French protesters descended on cities across the country against Mr Macron’s controversial pension plan, a BBC journalist was forced to abandon her report and flee as she was hit by tear gas, new footage has shown. Victoria Derbyshire was in the French capital of Paris reporting on the protests on Tuesday when the “mood changed” suddenly and what had begun as peaceful dissent grew into a violent confrontation between police and civilians.
It comes as footage showed protesters blocking the tracks of the Gare de Lyon in Paris in what one person said amounted to the “shutting down of France”.
Victoria Derbyshire posted a video for the BBC of her walking through the streets of Paris on Tuesday. The surreal footage showed her wearing an industrial-size gas mask and decrying that the “mood had definitely changed”.
In her report, she said: “We are in the center of Paris, where after a massive, peaceful march this afternoon against pension reform, the mood has definitely changed.”
As she attempts to continue with her reporting, she suddenly turns around to see dozens of protesters running towards her, fleeing tear gas thrown by the nearby police.
In a frantic turn, Ms Derbyshire then curses and looks to run away as she appears to be hit by the noxious gas.
Earlier on Tuesday, police were hit with objects and responded with tear gas to disperse demonstrators in the western city of Nantes.
In the center of Lyon, in the southeast, there were numerous confrontations between demonstrators and police as the protest wound down.
The interior minister had said more than 1,000 “radical” troublemakers, some from overseas, could latch on to marches in Paris and other cities.
Security has been ramped up for the 10th round of protest marches since January after the government warned that some demonstrators intended “to destroy, to injure and to kill”.
The Interior Ministry put the number of demonstrators nationwide at 740,000, down from more than 1 million five days ago when protesters voiced their anger at Mr Macron’s order to ram the bill raising France’s legal retirement age from 62 to 64 through parliament without a vote.
The Paris police counted 93,000 in Paris compared with 119,000 last Thursday, when violence reached a peak.
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In a bid to keep up pressure on the government to simply withdraw its retirement measure, unions are organizing the protests called for new strikes and marches on April 6.
Concerns that violence could mar the demonstrations prompted what Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin described as an unprecedented deployment of 13,000 officers, nearly half of them concentrated in the French capital.
A group of security forces in Paris at one point withdrew behind the wooden doors of a residential building during hours-long standoffs against ultra-leftist militants attacking with various projectiles and fireworks. A fire raged outside the door.
Outside the main train station in Paris, protesters wearing balaclavas and carrying red flares could be seen blocking the rail tracks.
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The protesters were chanting against the pension bill proposed by Mr. Macron, with trains delayed in and out of the capital as a result.
After months of upheaval, an exit from the firestorm of protest triggered by Mr Macron’s changes to France’s retirement system looks as far away as ever. Despite fresh union pleas that the government pause its hotly contested push to raise France’s legal retirement age, Mr Macron seemingly remains committed to it.
His order to use a special constitutional power to ram the reform past legislators without allowing them a vote looks to have galvanized the protest movement further.
Demonstrations got underway peacefully on Tuesday morning, with large crowds in multiple cities, but tensions rose as marches concluded in Paris, Lyon, Nantes, Bordeaux and elsewhere.