Blood and bin fires: Paris's pension protests in photos

Blood and bin fires: Paris's pension protests in photos

Paris is burning — Amid nationwide strikes and unrest, photographer Ryan Thomas captures the people's response to the French government's controversial pension reform bill.

Very few people riot like the French. That adage has never been truer than over the last few months, as the country has been gripped with nationwide protests and strikes after the Macron government forced through a raise in the retirement age from 62 to 64.

The unrest, which has seen scores arrested, many injured and attracted widespread condemnation of the French state by human rights groups for the police’s use of excessive force, has been a long time in the making.

Pension reform was a significant part of President Macron’s election platform in 2017 and initial protests and transport strikes against the plans, which did not originally include a raise of the retirement age, took place in late 2019. The Covid pandemic saw reforms delayed, with Macron announcing the rise in age in late 2022. 

The plans, which campaigners and unions say will detrimentally affect women and blue collar workers, are deeply unpopular. So much so that Macron took the surprise decision to enact article 49.3 of the French constitution, allowing him to bypass the country’s democratically elected National Assembly to enact a law. The triggering of the article saw two no-confidence attempts against his Government, both of which failed.

Reaction to the reforms have seen protests across France, with almost every town and city seeing people on the streets. The demonstrations reached fever pitch in March as unprecedented co-ordinated strike action across multiple sectors saw rubbish piling up on the streets and transport grinding to a halt.

Photographer Ryan Thomas was in Paris across two weekends in March to capture some of the action.

Follow Ryan on Instagram.

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