Police fire tear gas as Gilets Jaunes protests return to Paris | World News

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French police fired tear gas under a rain of projectiles, used grenades with a moral effect and arrested dozens of people on Saturday. "Yellow vest" anti-government protesters returned to the streets of Paris.

Protesters shouted slogans denouncing the police, the president, Emmanuel Macron, and its pension reforms that triggered the biggest French transport strike in decades.

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The night before, Macron and his wife, Brigitte, had to be removed from the Paris theater after the protesters tried to invade and disrupt the performance.

With sirens sounding, the riot police crossed the French capital in dozens of vans on Saturday for the route on which thousands of protesters marched.

Police said 59 people were arrested in the early afternoon.

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There were other allegations of police violence after the filming of AFPTV and others showing a young man, with his face covered in blood, being arrested and beaten.

Young people wearing masks shouted "revolution" when tear gas passed through the Bastille, the square where the French revolution broke out in 1789.

"The street is ours," sang some protesters. "Macron, we will pick you up at your place."

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Saturday's clashes took place on the 45th day of a strike that hit train and metro traffic and caused misery for millions of passengers in and around Paris. Trains are becoming more frequent, however, and Paris metro drivers have voted to suspend their actions as of Monday, the UNSA union announced on Saturday.

The protests were also the last weekly demonstrations held every Saturday by the gilet jaunes (yellow vest) since November 2018 and that have been driven by those who oppose pension reforms.

"We are suffocating with this government that wants to kneel down," said Annie Moukam, a 58-year-old teacher among the protesters. "It is out of the question that he (Macron) touches our pensions. We work all our lives to be able to leave with a dignified retirement," he added.

Macron's reforms aim to forge a single pension system among the country's 42 separate regimes. The various systems currently in place offer early retirement and other benefits to some public sector workers, as well as lawyers, physiotherapists and even Paris Opera employees.

Critics say the reforms will force millions of people to work harder for a lower pension.

Transport unions have joined forces with the yellow vests, which accuse Macron of governing on behalf of an urban elite, ignoring people in the provinces and in the countryside, many of whom struggle to survive.

The unions are looking for a second wind when the movement starts to signal, with the proportion of workers on strike at the national railway operator SNCF falling to less than 5% on Friday.

The Louvre in Paris, the most visited museum in the world, reopened on Saturday after being closed by workers who opposed pension reform.



The Louvre was closed by workers on Friday, but reopened on Saturday,

Photo: Christophe Petit-Tesson / EPA

On Friday, hundreds of disappointed visitors huddled outside the Louvre, some launching insults at attackers who had blocked the entrance. It was the first time since the strike began on December 5 that the museum had closed completely, although it was forced to close some galleries last month.

But there was no sign of an end to the strike at the Paris Opera, which lost 14 million euros with the cancellation of 67 performances.

The Paris Opera orchestra on Saturday delivered versions of Carmen and other works to Parisians and tourists on the steps of the Palais Garnier to show support for the strike. Under a chain of confetti, they ended with La Marseillaise, the national anthem. Supporters shouted "Long live the strike".

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