Parisians take to the Streets

Mendel Letters
4 min readMar 19, 2023


A major protest part in Paris on March 16, 2023.

It’s 1968 again in Paris. Days before the start of Spring, Revolution is in the air along with the slight aroma of garbage. A strike by garbage collectors in about half of the city is scheduled to continue at least until Monday. Refinery workers have also held sporadic strikes and transport workers and teachers are planning protests for this Thursday.

Students chanting and singing protest songs at the Sorbonne

Last Thursday, as French President Emmanuel Macron moved to bypass Parliament and raise the national retirement age, French students took to the streets in protest. Marchers chanted, “Emmanuel Macron, president of the business bosses, we’re coming at you.”

While Thursday’s student march and rally was peaceful, some demonstrations led to vandalism and confrontations between protesters and police. On Thursday, heavily armed National Police were mobilized at government and historic buildings. Thursday night protesters started fires near the Place de la Concorde facing the French Parliament and police responded with smoke bombs, pepper spray, teargas, and water cannons and there were hundreds of arrests.

For two months, massive protests and strikes, including a garbage strike, have tied up the French capital. Some protests drew over a million people. In Parliament, opposition forces defiantly sang the French National Anthem in defense of France’s social security system. In response to the wave of protests, some members of the French National Assembly have requested police protect.

Opposition to raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 is coming from both the French political left and right. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a leader of the leftist France Unbowed party, declared “this bill that has no parliamentary legitimacy, nor legitimacy in the street.” According to Olivier Faure, the leader of the French Socialist Party, “We have a president who makes use of a permanent coup d’état.” Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Rally party, announced support for a no-confidence motion against the government for undermining French democracy. If the no-confidence vote succeeds, the bill is defeated and Macron’s cabinet, but not the French President, are forced to resign.

Macron was reelected President in 2022 largely as a vote against the far right nativist Le Pen, but he is perceived of by many in France as an elitist who is tone deaf about the needs and opinions of the mass of the population. He used a Parliamentary tactic to avoid an up or down vote on raising the retirement age. The centrists parties that hold a slim majority in Parliament support raising the retirement age to ensure financial solvency, however party members did not want to stand for reelection after voting for the bill. Macron’s strategy spared them from going on record. Because they actually support raising of age of retirement, they are unlikely to vote no confidence in the government.

Either way, the protests are not expected to stop.