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Retreats: vandalized businesses, overturned cars, arson attacks… an incandescent night after a day of anger


Fires. Lights that glow in the night. Twenty-four hours after the intervention of the President of the Republic supposed to appease the anger of the French, the dispute took the color of hundreds of fires. In Bordeaux, the door of the town hall is on fire. A real brazier from which the splendid 18th century columns barely emergee of the Rohan Palace. While the ecologist mayor, Pierre Hurmic, “extremely shocked” laments in front of this act of vandalism, the last employees who had sealed themselves off in the offices of the town hall were evacuated. In Lorient, it was the police station that was targeted and saw flames licking its facade. Windows of the neighboring building of the sub-prefecture were broken by throwing projectiles and fires lit against the gate. In Montpellier, the street leading to the station seems lit by wild braziers.

All over the country, in the heart of the cities most mobilized against the pension reform, the demonstrators put away their banners at the end of the afternoon castigating pell-mell the extension of the duration of contributions, the 49.3 used by the government to pass its law through parliament – “I became radicalized by watching LCP and Public Sénat”, says a sign – and even more so the President of the Republic. But now that the crowds are dispersing, it burns.

In Paris, the garbage cans that have been piling up for almost three weeks are used as fuel for hundreds of bonfires – 140, the police counted – that firefighters and sometimes local residents put out with large jets of water. Restaurateurs, terrified by the sparks that fly and threaten their establishment, invective the demonstrators. Rue Saint-Marc, an old lady is evacuated while the fire engines cannot reach the entrance of a burnt building. The Galeries Lafayette have lowered the curtain on Boulevard Haussmann, where demonstrators have managed to pass. Hidden rue des Mathurins a stone’s throw from the Place de l’Opéra, the police are ready to intervene and, while another source of fire broke out in front of the Lancel store, mobile gendarmes come out of the metro and throw tear gas so that the firefighters can intervene.

A street in Paris after the passage of the procession during the demonstration against the pension reform, March 23, 2023.

Black smoke

Around the Opera, the black smoke sometimes plunges the streets into a sticky and unbreathable darkness. But it is still the red of the furnace which dominates, on the right bank of the capital, drawing the aesthetic and disturbing picture of a riot abundantly photographed by the cameras of the continuous news channels and the thousands of cell phones of the demonstrators. , tourists and onlookers. In black leather boots and a wide neckline, a young blonde woman has leaned against a plane tree a few meters from the flames and poses in front of a photographer, as if for a surreal fashion report in this setting of fire…

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