Tue | Feb 25, 2020

France shuts down, mass strike hits trains and Eiffel Tower

Published:Thursday | December 5, 2019 | 9:54 AM
Protesters demonstrate in Rennes, western France, Thursday, December 5, 2019. (AP Photo/David Vincent)

PARIS (AP) — The Eiffel Tower shut down, France’s vaunted high-speed trains stood still and several thousand people protested in Paris as unions launched open-ended, nationwide strikes Thursday over the government’s plan to overhaul the retirement system.

Paris authorities barricaded the presidential palace and deployed 6,000 police as activists - many in yellow vests representing France’s year-old movement for economic justice - gathered in the capital in a mass outpouring of anger at President Emmanuel Macron and his centrepiece reform.

Unions and their supporters fear that the changes to how and when workers can retire will threaten the hard-fought French way of life.

Macron himself remained “calm and determined” to push it through, according to a top presidential official.

The Louvre Museum warned of strike disruptions, and subway stations across Paris shut their gates.

Many visitors - including the US energy secretary - cancelled plans to travel to one of the world’s most-visited countries amid the strike.

Unprepared tourists discovered historic train stations standing empty Thursday, with about nine out of 10 of high-speed TGV trains cancelled.

Signs at Paris’ Orly Airport showed “cancelled” notices, as the civil aviation authority announced 20% of flights were grounded.

Some travellers showed support for the striking workers, but others complained about being embroiled in someone else’s fight.

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