Tear gas vs rocks: Anti-pension reform & Yellow Vests protests get heated in France (VIDEOS)

Rallies against France’s pension reform and anti-government Yellow Vest protests have escalated into clashes with police in Paris and other cities. Police responded with tear gas as some protesters threw stones and started fires.

The nationwide strike against pension reforms has entered its 38th day in France, coinciding with ‘Act 61’ of demonstrations by the Yellow Vests, the movement that has been protesting state austerity measures each weekend for over a year now.

Tensions this Saturday appear to be particularly high, as clashes between the protesters and law enforcement erupted in multiple locations across the country.

In Paris, the protesters were seen pelting police with stones, trying to erect barricades in the streets, as well as setting dumpsters on fire. Law enforcement, in turn, responded with volleys of tear gas, that creeped through the streets as a large, whitish, toxic cloud.

A billboard –reportedly advertising a bank– was also set on fire. The structure emitted a thick plume of black smoke, that engulfed the adjacent residential building; the blaze was eventually put out.

The rallies is several other French cities appear to be as turbulent as in the country’s capital. In Nantes, for instance, the police was seen trying to disperse the crowds using two fire hoses, as well as liberally deploying tear gas.

Scuffles between the police and the protesters have also erupted in Montpellier, Caen and other locations.

In Rouen, the rowdy protesters tried to block the streets with garbage cans and other objects, that, yet again, prompted the police to deploy tear gas, as well as to baton charge the crowds.

Observers filming the clashes from their apartment ‘received’ a tear gas grenade from the police right into it. Fortunately, they escaped the incident unscathed, except from suffering exposure to the gas, while the grenade left burn marks on their floor.

The Rouen incident prompted inevitable comparisons with the fate of Zineb Redouane, an 80-year-old woman from Marseille who died a year ago after getting hit by a police grenade in her face. Redouane was at her apartment during a Yellow Vests rally and merely came up to her window to close it when the projectile struck her in the face.

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The anti-pension-reform protests, which have received massive support from French trade unions, kicked off early in December. They came in the form of mass rallies, strikes, work walkouts and attempts to disrupt vital infrastructure. The unrest was triggered by the government plan for the reform, that will see the country’s 42 pension plans merged into a single, points-based one.

While the authorities insist the main goal of the reform is to make the pension more transparent and simple, its critics believe the government is basically trying to rip workers off, stealing their hard-earned benefits.

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