French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife were rushed from a Paris theatre late on Friday after protesters tried to burst in and disrupt the performance.
Riot police were out in force as dozens of people staged a demonstration outside the theatre where Macron and Brigitte were watching The Fly.
About 30 protesters tried to enter the building housing the renowned Bouffes du Nord theatre after some people in the audience tweeted the presence of France’s first couple, presidential staff said.
The pair “were secured” for several minutes and later returned to their seats to finish watching the play, they said.
Police said they prevented the protesters from getting into the theatre in the 10th district of Paris, which lies several kilometres from the president’s Elysee Palace’s residence.
The Macrons, who occasionally slip out to enjoy a dinner or play in the French capital, finally left the theatre under police escort.
“All together, general strike,” protesters shouted during the stand-off with riot police that lasted around an hour.
The demonstration on Friday evening took place on the 44th day of a crippling strike against the Macron government’s proposed pension reforms.
Macron’s staff were defiant after Friday’s events.
“The president will continue to attend plays as he is used to doing. He will watch out to defend creative freedom to ensure it is not undermined by violent political acts,” a Macron aide said.
Making few public appearances for weeks, Macron last mixed with the crowds when he visited the northern city of Amiens in November before his retirement reforms were announced.
Yesterday police fired tear gas under a rain of projectiles and arrested several people as thousands of “yellow vest” anti-government protesters returned to the streets of Paris.
This was the latest of the weekly demonstrations held every Saturday by the “yellow vest” movement since November 2018, and which have been boosted by opposition to the pension reforms.
Police said 15 people were arrested after police tried to disperse a bloc at the head of the protest in northern Paris.
“The street is ours,” some protesters chanted. “Macron, we’re going to come for you, in your home.”
Police fired tear gas as they came under a hail of projectiles, AFP reporters witnessed.
Annie Moukam, a 58-year-old teacher, said too many people in France were suffering.
“We’re suffocating with this government who wants to put us on our knees,” Moukam said.
The overhaul aims to forge a single pensions system from the country’s 42 separate regimes, which offer early retirement and other benefits to public-sector workers as well as lawyers, physical therapists and even Paris Opera employees.
Critics say it will effectively force millions of people to work longer for a smaller pension.
Though it is now easing, the transport strike has snarled train and metro traffic and caused misery for millions of commuters in Paris especially.
Trains are becoming more frequent, and Paris’s metro drivers voted to suspend their action from tomorrow, their union Unsa announced yesterday.
Macron’s reforms aim to forge a single pensions system from the country’s 42 separate regimes.
The various systems currently in place offer early retirement and other benefits to some public-sector workers as well as lawyers, physical therapists and even Paris Opera employees.
The transport unions have joined forces with the yellow vests, who accuse Macron of ruling on behalf of an urban elite while ignoring people in the provinces and the countryside, many of whom struggle to make ends meet.
Yesterday striking musicians and singers of the Paris Opera staged an open-air concert in front of the city’s historic opera house.
Orchestra members and singers performed well-known pieces by Verdi and Bizet in a half-hour event outside the Opera Garnier building, ending with a rendition of the Marseillaise.
The musicians were cheered on by colleagues, including ballerinas who last month performed scenes from Swan Lake at the same spot in a similar protest.
The event drew applause from passers-by on a sunny winter’s afternoon in the French capital, where performances by the Paris Opera have been cancelled for the past month due to the strike by artists who want to preserve centuries-old retirement provisions.
“We’re so unhappy about not being able to give our shows that we’re performing in a different way, in the street, to show the public that we’re not on holiday,” Fabien Wallerand, a tuba player in the Paris Opera’s orchestra, told Reuters.
Under an arrangement dating back to 1698 and the reign of Louis XIV, Paris Opera dancers can retire on a full pension at the age of 42, singers at 57, and musicians at 60.
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