According to the Ministry of the Interior, 1,093 police officers and firefighters have been injured in the violent protests against pension reforms in France since mid-March. In addition, there were 2,579 arson attacks and 316 attacks on public buildings, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told the Sunday newspaper "JDD". At the same time, 36 officers were being investigated on suspicion of excessive use of force. Darmanin did not name the number of injured demonstrators.
The protests, which were peaceful for many weeks, turned violent on March 16. On that day, the government under President Emmanuel Macron pushed through the highly controversial reform to gradually raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 without a vote in parliament. The Constitutional Council is still reviewing the reform.
The Minister of the Interior rejected the recently frequently voiced accusation that police officers acted aggressively against protesters and used disproportionate force. The right to demonstrate does not include the right to use violence, he said. If ultra-leftists and other rioters stir up the largely peaceful protests, the law enforcement agencies would have to intervene, Darmanin said.
The police can show legitimate strength and sometimes act robustly, as the government member put it. But they are reacting to extremely violent attacks by professional rioters who want to destroy property and kill police officers, Darmanin said literally.
Meanwhile, the protests against the pension reform are not abating. The unions have announced the next nationwide protest day for next Thursday. Strikes continue to hamper public life in France. For example, air traffic and the supply of fuel to filling stations are affected.