French president faces mass protests


Paris April 19 (TNS): French President Emmanuel Macron, who has barely been in the office for a year, faces mass protests as trade unionists on Thursday sought to spur students, public sector workers and striking train worker and drivers into joining forces against him almost a year after he came to office.

The CGT union has urged the broad spectrum of groups opposed to Macron’s reforms to come together on the streets, with some left-wingers dreaming of a re-run of the huge May 1968 demonstrations that shook France half a century ago.

Macron, 40, swept to power at the head of a new centrist party last May pledging sweeping reforms to dynamise the French economy.

But left-wing opponents accuse the business-friendly former investment banker of seeking to take a sledgehammer to public services, including by cutting 120,000 public sector jobs.

His plans to shake up heavily-indebted state rail operator SNCF have meanwhile prompted unions to press three months of rolling strikes that are causing havoc for France’s 4.5 million train users.

“They are in the street because they don’t want anything to change,” Macron said during a trip Wednesday to the eastern town of Saint-Die-des-Vosges, where he was booed by trade unionists.

Various groups have staged strikes and demonstrations against Macron over the past year, including a series of mass protests that have drawn hundreds of thousands onto the streets.

But Thursday will see the first national attempt at a joint show of force by anti-Macron groups, including students angered by plans to make university admissions more selective.

Protests are planned around the country, including a march through Paris that will leave Montparnasse in the city’s south at 2:00 pm (1200 GMT) before making its way to Place d’Italie towards the east.