Anger over pension overhaul follows Macron around France

Paris, Apr 20 (EFE).- French citizens unhappy over an increase in the retirement age met President Emmanuel Macron with protests Thursday during his visit to the southeastern town of Ganges.

As was the case Wednesday in Alsace, Macron received a chilly welcome, but the demonstration was less boisterous than the previous days because police confiscated pans and other noise-making items from people entering the town square.

Pan-banging, a form of protest that originated in South America, has featured prominently in the successive mobilizations against the increase in the retirement age from 62 to 64.

Authorities in the Mediterranean coastal department of Herault issued a prohibition on “the use of portable sound devices” and on sounds emanating “from unauthorized vehicles.”

Macron said in Ganges that protests are normal and that demonstrations will not dissuade him from traveling throughout France in pursuit of reconciliation after the pension battle.

The former investment banker said that he is open to talking with people who oppose his policies, “but it’s not worth the trouble if they are only ready to throw things or make noise.”

Media outlets said that protesters threw eggs and potatoes when Macron arrived at his first stop in Ganges, a middle school, while union members claimed responsibility for cutting power to the school during the president’s visit.

Here in the capital, a protest against the pension overhaul took place at the offices of Euronext, which runs the Paris stock exchange, and outside the headquarters of France’s main employers federation, Medef.

In a speech to the nation Monday night, Macron tried to turn the page on the pensions controversy by announcing a “social pact” comprising initiatives in the areas of reindustrialization, education, and health.

But he shows no signs of being willing to compromise on the retirement age and he continues to defend the legitimacy of enacting the pension overhaul via a constitutional provision that allows the government to impose legislation in the absence of a vote of no-confidence.

Polls show that up to 70 percent of the French population opposes the higher retirement age and though the measure is now law, organized labor is calling for a “grand popular mobilization” against the pension overhaul on May 1. EFE ngp/dr

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