Riot police clashed with protesters in Paris as anger erupted over President Emmanuel Macron pushing through raising the retirement age without a parliamentary vote.
Water cannons and tear gas were used to disperse protesters in the central Place de La Concorde on Thursday evening.
Thousands took to the streets in response to President Macron’s use of a presidential emergency decree to push through raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.
Riot police clash with protesters in Paris as Macron imposes unpopular pension reforms
The police cordoned off the square, the largest in Paris, where up to 6,000 people had gathered.
A Reuters reporter saw cobblestones being thrown at police, who insisted on breaking up groups of protesters, who fired tear gas into the crowd.
Police arrived at around 8.30pm to clear it, prompting protesters to duck down side streets.
“A group of rioters escaped from the police and began marching on the Elysee Palace,” said an eyewitness.
“They wanted to reach Macron to tell him what they think of his new measures.”
It came after Mr Macron expected to lose a key vote in the National Assembly and so used an emergency presidential decree to get what he wanted.
There were boos for Mr Macron’s Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne as she announced the move in Parliament, saying: “We cannot jeopardize the future of our pension system.”
MEPs from the far-left France Unbowed party sang the national anthem La Marseillaise as Ms Borne struggled to make her voice heard earlier while others held up signs that read ‘Democracy?’
The Senate passed the new law on Thursday morning and Ms Borne was due to announce a vote in the National Assembly in the afternoon, but Mr Macron felt it was too risky.
Marine Le Pen, the National Assembly MP who came second to Mr Macron in the last two presidential elections, said: “This is a complete failure of the government”.
Calling for a no-confidence vote in the Macron government, Ms Le Pen said it was a “failure of democracy” for the president to use Article 49.3 of the constitution – one that allows laws to pass without a vote.
Charles de Courson, an Independent MP, said: “The government’s use of the 49.3 procedure reflects the failure of this presidential minority.
“They’re not just a minority in the National Assembly, they’re a minority across the country, but we’re in a democracy.”
And Fabien Roussel, the leader of the Communist Party, said Mr Macron was “not worthy of our Fifth Republic”.
Macron’s unpopular plan to raise the retirement age has sparked strikes and violent demonstrations across France.
Striking Paris garbage collectors face jail time if they refuse to clean up the French capital after 8,000 tons of rubbish accumulated.
Police “requisitioned” municipal employees on Thursday, saying they would be prosecuted if they continued their protest against pension reform.
More than 70 percent of the population opposes raising the retirement age, polls show, and millions have turned out to protest.
Mr Macron’s centrist Renaissance alliance has 250 MPs, so it had to win over opposition politicians to get 289 votes, or convince some to abstain to get a majority.
The president has jeopardized his reformist credentials for pension reform, and failure threatened to make him a lame duck on domestic affairs with four years left in his second term.