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28 May, 2023 11:12

Police station, town hall vandalized amid pension reform protest (VIDEO)

French security forces used tear gas to disperse a demonstration in the city of Lyon

Protesters clashed with French police in the city of Lyon on Friday, during a rally against government policies, including a highly debated pension reform. The unrest resulted in street fires and vandalized public and commercial buildings.

The so-called “Grand Popular Carnaval,” organized by some 50 left-wing groups and unions, attracted at least 300 people, according to police and local media estimates. The anti-government demonstration, which started off peacefully, was supposed to be “festive” and featured costumes, songs and even orchestral performances.

Later, however, the situation spiraled out of control when some demonstrators targeted the town hall of the city’s 1st district, as well as a municipal police station, according to the local prefecture. Footage published on social media also showed rioters smashing windows with stones, furniture burning on the streets and efforts to erect barricades.

Local law enforcement used tear gas to disperse the troublemakers while arresting one protester. Lyon’s prefecture condemned “radical activists” for the “unacceptable excesses endangering the safety” of the city’s residents, saying that despite a volley of projectiles, police intervention had helped to protect the inhabitants and buildings from further damage.

Those remarks were echoed by Yasmine Bouagga, the mayor of the 1st district, who wrote on Twitter that the “popular carnival was hijacked by violent individuals engaged in looting, burning and degrading local public services.”

France has been reeling under nationwide protests for several months now over French President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. In April, Macron invoked special constitutional powers to push his reform through the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, without holding a vote, which only fueled public outcry.

Despite backlash from the opposition, France’s Constitutional Council upheld Macron’s move to overhaul the pension system. The council also turned down a proposition to hold a public referendum on the matter, arguing that it failed to meet criteria defined in the constitution.