More than a million people took to the streets across France on Thursday with protests turning violent in some areas as demonstrators voiced their fury at proposed pension reforms.
Clashes between groups of protesters and police broke out after workers staged a national strike throughout Thursday, with flare-ups in Paris and regional capitals.
French police said around 1,000 people acted “violently,” setting fires, launching smoke bombs and damaging property. In the southwestern city of Bordeaux, protesters set fire to the entrance of the city hall during ongoing clashes with police, according to CNN affiliate BFMTV.
Police fired tear gas at crowds in northwestern Lorient, while video from Rennes shows authorities using water cannons to disperse protesters.
At least 80 people were arrested and 123 police officers injured in France on Thursday during the nationwide protests, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.
Thursday was the ninth day of strikes in the country and the first of coordinated action since French President Emmanuel Macron’s government pushed a bill to increase the retirement age from 62 to 64 through parliament without a vote last week.
The mostly peaceful day of strike action – which saw 119,000 people march in Paris, according to the Interior Ministry – disrupted transport networks, oil refineries and schools.
It also affected air traffic, with 30% of flights impacted at Paris Orly airport.
Unionized workers blockaded a major oil refinery in Normandy and another one in Fos-sur-Mer in the south of the country, according to a government spokesperson. And earlier in the day, about 70 protesters blocked terminal one at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, an airport spokesperson told CNN.
Ahead of the strike, French authorities had mobilized 12,000 police officers throughout the country, including 5,000 in Paris.
King Charles’s visit postponed
France’s eight major trade unions announced a further nationwide protest for March 28, and called for local disruptive action over the weekend.