A total of 457 people were arrested and 441 security forces injured on Thursday during nationwide protests against French President Emmanuel Macron’s pensions reform, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.
Speaking to the CNews channel on Friday morning, Darmanin also said that there had been 903 fires lit in the streets of Paris during by far the most violent day of protests since they began in January.
“There were a lot of demonstrations and some of them turned violent, notably in Paris,” Darmanin added, saying the toll was “difficult” while praising the police for protecting the more than million people who marched around France.
Police had warned that anarchist groups were expected to infiltrate the Paris march and young men wearing hoods and facemasks were seen smashing windows and setting fire to uncollected rubbish in the latter stages of the demonstration.
Darmanin, a rightwing hardliner in Macron’s centrist government, dismissed calls from protesters to withdraw the pensions reform which cleared parliament last week in controversial circumstances.
“I don’t think we should withdraw this law because of violence,” he said. “If so, that means there’s no state. We should accept a democratic, social debate, but not a violent debate.”
Elsewhere on Thursday, the entrance to Bordeaux city hall was set on fire during clashes in the southwestern wine-exporting hub.
“I have difficulty in understanding and accepting this sort of vandalism,” the mayor of Bordeaux, Pierre Hurmic, told RTL radio on Friday.
“Why would you make a target of our communal building, of all people of Bordeaux? I can only condemn it in the strongest possible terms.”
British King Charles III is set to visit the southwestern city next Tuesday and had been expected to visit the city hall and meet with Hurmic.