Calls For More Pensions Protests As Hundreds Arrested In France

French firefighters (C) operate on a fire during a demonstration near Place de la Concorde in Paris [Thomas Samson/AFP]

[Al Jazeera] French authorities have arrested 457 people during nationwide protests against French President Emmanuel Macron’s pensions reform as unions called for more demonstrations.

Speaking to the CNews channel, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said 903 fires were lit in the streets of the capital, Paris, on Thursday.

A total of 441 security forces were injured during clashes in what was by far the most violent day of demonstrations since they began in January, even as hundreds of thousands of people across the country took part in mostly peaceful rallies.

“There were a lot of demonstrations and some of them turned violent, notably in Paris,” Darmanin said on Friday morning.

Reporting from Paris, Al Jazeera’s Natacha Butler said there were more than 200 protests and strikes across France, most of which were peaceful.

“But there were some incidents of serious violence in Paris, where police and some protesters clashed,” she added. “There were scenes of virtual chaos.”

Police had warned that “anarchist” groups were expected to infiltrate the Paris march and young men wearing hoods and face masks were seen smashing windows and setting fire to uncollected rubbish in the latter stages of the demonstration against the government plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.

Darmanin, a right-wing 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 the City Hall in the southwestern city of Bordeaux was set on fire during clashes.

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