Hundreds arrested in France as nationwide protests show no sign of slowing
Over 450 people were arrested following another night of chaos in France as police and protesters continue to clash in riots across the country.
Police fired tear gas and fought with violent black-clad anarchists in Paris and across France on as hundreds of thousands of protesters marched against Mr Macron's plan to raise the pension age.
Some 457 people were arrests and 441 security forces were injured, ministers said on Friday morning.
The ninth day of nationwide protests, mostly peaceful, disrupted train and air travel. Teachers were among many professions to walk off the job, days after the government pushed through legislation to raise the retirement age by two years to 64.
Demonstrations in central Paris were generally peaceful, but groups of "Black Bloc" anarchists smashed shop windows, demolished street furniture and ransacked a McDonald's restaurant. Clashes ensued as riot police drove back the anarchists with tear gas and stun grenades.
"There are thugs, often from the far-Left, who want to bring down the state and kill police officers," Mr Darmanin said after visiting Paris police headquarters on Thursday night.
Small groups continued to clash with police in Paris late into the night, lighting fires throughout the city centre and playing cat-and-mouse with security forces.
Police had also fired tear gas at some protesters in several other cities, including Nantes, and Lorient in the west, and Lille in the north, and used water cannon against others in Rennes in the northwest.
Labour unions fear protests could turn more violent if the government does not heed mounting popular anger over pension curbs.
"This is a response to the falsehoods expressed by the president and his incomprehensible stubbornness" Marylise Leon, deputy secretary general of the CFDT union, said.
"The responsibility of this explosive situation lies not with the unions but with the government."
Unions called for regional action over the weekend and new nationwide strikes and protests on March 28, the day Britain's King Charles is due to travel to Bordeaux from Paris by train.
The main entrance of the Bordeaux town hall was set ablaze on Thursday, days before the monarch was due to walk through on his visit to the southwestern city.
On Wednesday, Mr Macron broke weeks of silence on the new policy, insisting the law would come into force by year end. He compared protests to the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the US Capitol.
Slogans and banners took aim at the president, who avoided reporters as he arrived in Brussels for a European Union leaders summit.
Opinion polls have long shown a majority of voters oppose the pension legislation. Anger mounted last week when the government rammed the changes through the lower house of parliament without a vote.
The French interior ministry said 1.089 million protested across the country, including 119,000 in the capital which was a record since protests started in January. The CGT union said 3.5 million people marched in the country, equalling a previous high on March 7.
"I came here because I oppose this reform and I really oppose the fact that democracy no longer means anything," Sophie Mendy, an administrative medical worker, told Reuters at the Paris rally. "We’re not being represented, and so we’re fed up."
Electricity output was cut as unions raised pressure on the government to withdraw the law. Flight services will continue to be reduced at the weekend, the civil aviation authority said.
Protests also targeted oil depots and blocked a liquefied natural gas terminal in the northern city of Dunkirk. Rolling strikes at oil depots and refineries have led to major petrol shortages in the southeast and west of France.
Protests against the new law, which also accelerates a planned increase in the number of required working years to draw a full pension, have drawn huge crowds in rallies organised by unions this year.
Over the past seven nights demonstrations have been held in Paris and other cities with rubbish bins set ablaze and clashes with police. It has been the most serious challenge to Mr Macron's authority since the "Yellow Vest" revolt of disgruntled lower-income people four years ago.