Several thousand firefighters protested understaffing, the threat to their government pensions and a lack of recognition of their work, including risk premiums that match those of the police and the gendarmerie.
Police decried the fact that many protesting firefighters had abandoned the prearranged route, and it didn’t take long before the march descended into clashes with riot police.
Police repeatedly deployed a variety of crowd control grenades despite several controversies stemming from their use against both the Yellow Vest protesters and the pension reform protesters.
Professional firefighters represent just 16 percent of the 247,000 firefighters in France, with the remainder comprising volunteers and military personnel. Tuesday’s march was the second national demonstration by the professional firefighters unions in less than four months; the strike movement began back in June 2019 after proposed reforms to the national pension scheme were announced.
The reforms attempt to overhaul France’s pension system into a universal system that will see pay-outs calculated from whole careers rather than the current last five years of activity. The pension age will also be increased from 62 to 64.
”Le cynisme n’a plus de limite…”
French President Emmanuel Macron has been accused of blatant hypocrisy, after he was photographed with a t-shirt satirizing his own government’s violent crackdown on anti-austerity protests.
Macron paid a visit to the International Comic Book Festival in Angouleme, southwestern France on Thursday – but his appearance likely had the opposite of its intended effect on France’s increasingly discontented electorate.
A photograph taken during the festival shows the French leader holding up a t-shirt showing a cartoon cat with a bleeding, patched-up eye. Under the feline reads: LBD 2020, an allusion to the infamous “defense ball launcher” (LBD) used by French riot police, as well as the name of the comic book festival (BD 2020).
The photo-op gaffe sparked outrage from Macron’s critics. Left Party leader Jean-Luc Melenchon said the incident showed that the French president “trivializes police violence.”
French police have been accused of using excessive force to quell anti-austerity and Yellow Vest protests across the country. More than 20 protesters have lost eyes in demonstrations against Macron’s deeply unpopular reforms.
The photograph also enraged law enforcement. Yves Lefebvre, a senior police union official, described the incident as “scandalous,” local media reported.
Responding to the outrage, Macron suggested that the photograph shows how in France’s “free society,” the president can hold up a t-shirt with which he does not agree.