Protesters in Lyon protect themselves from police tear gas during a demonstration against France’s government pensions reform. Photo by Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images.
Protesters clashed with police and set fires in cities across France on Tuesday as opposition to a proposed increase in the retirement age took an increasingly violent turn. Meantime, hundreds of flights were canceled, long lines formed at gas stations and train service in many regions was cut in half because of union strikes.
The protests, which have drawn between one and three million people according to the Financial Times, are against the government’s plan to raise the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62 and the full benefits threshold from 65 to 67.
Here’s footage from ITN:
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his conservative party believe that the bill is needed to help prevent the pension system from going bankrupt. Union leaders have vowed to keep up the pressure until the government scraps the bill.
French officials say about 1,500 petrol stations in France have run dry or are about to close as fuel supplies are hit by the strikes, the BBC reports. The government has also begun tapping its emergency fuel reserves.
The Economist believes the fuel shortages will take the protest to a whole new level:
[T]he petrol shortages that have spread across the country in recent days, prompting long queues at the pump, are a different matter. A week-old strike now touches all 12 of France’s refineries. With lorry drivers and school pupils also staging improvised demonstrations, France is facing a hardening of protests in what will be a crucial week in determining the fate of the pension reform.
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