Paris rat catchers throw bodies at City Hall as France faces 11th round of strikes

Protesters disrupted traffic at Paris’ main airport and gathered again in other French cities on Thursday for strikes and demonstrations seeking to get President Emmanuel Macron to scrap pension reforms that have ignited a monthslong firestorm of public anger.

In Paris, rat catchers set the tone by hurling the cadavers of rodents at City Hall. 

That protest was one of the more shocking illustrations of how Macron’s plans to raise the national retirement age from 62 to 64 have infuriated workers. Broadcaster BFM-TV showed the rodents’ emaciated corpses being tossed by workers in white protective suits.

Natacha Pommet, a leader of the public services branch of the CGT trade union, said Thursday that Paris’ rat catchers wanted “to show the hard reality of their mission” and that fury with Macron’s pension reforms is morphing into a wider movement of workers expressing grievances over salaries and other issues.

“All this anger brings together all types of anger,” she said in a phone interview.

Demonstrators march Thursday, April 6, 2023 in Nantes, western France.

Ten previous rounds of nationwide strikes and protests since January have failed to get Macron to change course, and there was no sign from his government that Thursday’s 11th round of upheaval would make it back down.

Talks between trade union leaders and Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne quickly broke up Wednesday with no breakthrough, setting the stage for protesters to return to the streets.

At Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, about 100 demonstrators blocked a road leading to Terminal 1 on Thursday morning and entered the terminal building, the airport operator said. It said flights were unaffected, but travellers towing their luggage had to weave their way past flag-waving protesters.

A CGT representative at the airport, Loris Foreman, told BFM-TV that the demonstrators wanted “to show the world and Europe that we don’t want to work to 64 years old.”

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