The pension reform protests followed, set into motion by President Emmanuel Macron’s attempts to consolidate 42 separate pension schemes into a singular, points-based plan. Over the past several months, everyone from hospital and transport workers to teachers, lawyers, and firefighters have taken to the streets across France to protect their pensions and their futures in ever-more creative ways.
Law & disorder
Lawyers across France symbolically cast off their robes onto the streets, spelling out ‘SOS’ with law books and carrying a ‘coffin of justice’ amid perceived threats that their particularly large €2 billion pension fund surplus would be liquidated.
French forensic specialists share a penchant for the theatrical, it would seem, as they set up a bloody ‘murder’ scene to protest moves to change their pension schemes, replete with evidence markers, dismembered dummy ‘body parts’, and a police cordon.
The Art of Protest
The world-famous Louvre museum was shuttered for several days in January as workers’ placards proclaimed “the Mona Lisa is on strike.”
Ballet dancers with the Paris Opera gathered in front of the Palais Garnier to give an impromptu performance of an excerpt from Swan Lake.
Not to be outdone by their prancing peers, the Paris Opera also gave a concert outside the Palais Garnier, performing pieces taken from Trojan March by Hector Berlioz and Carmen by Georges Bizet.
Meanwhile, French firefighters set themselves on fire before engaging in pitched battles with riot police on the streets of Paris.
However, not all of the protests have involved heavy-handed policing via smoke grenades and water cannons, as showcased by the so-called ‘French Spider-Man’ (aka Alain Robert) who climbed the 48-storey La Defense building in Paris in solidarity with the pension reform protesters.
An honorable mention goes to protesting transport workers in Nice, who set up their own mobile barbecue to help feed the masses from the out-of-order tram tracks due to the day’s strike.
The current wave of mass protests gripping France shows little, if any, sign of abating any time soon, so we can likely expect yet more creative protests in the near future.
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