Throughout France, demonstrators took to the streets today, December 5, in protest against President Emmanuel Macron’s proposed retirement reforms. The announced changes would affect workers across several industries including healthcare, transportation, education, agriculture, and emergency services. Many of those who would be affected by the reforms have walked off their jobs to strike, bringing the country to a standstill.
As with other sectors of French society, the protests have affected the country’s many museums and cultural institutions. According to the Art Newspaper, several museums in the country’s capital like the Grand Palais and the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris are only keeping one of their exhibitions open, or in the case of the Palais de Tokyo and the Musée Guimet, remain closed entirely. In response to the dire state of public transportation, some museums like the Musée d’Orsay, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, and Musée Marmottan have shortened their operating hours. Even the Louvre is operating at a limited capacity for visitors who bought tickets in advance.
Although there have been protests over France’s pension plan in the past, President Macron’s proposed plan would require a drastic overhaul of the system in an effort to stave off a deficit for the country’s numerous pension plans. The president suggested merging the plans together and creating a points-based system that would then translate into monetary value. The idea has been met with severe skepticism and fear that pensions may evaporate for the millions counting on it. On Thursday, NBC News reported 9 out of 10 high-speed trains did not run, several subway stations were closed, and almost a third of Air France’s flights were canceled because of the demonstration. The Eiffel Tower remained closed to visitors. There is no end date for the strikes, as unions have pledged an indefinite strike to make their side heard.
France has dealt with mass demonstrations as recently as last year with the Yellow Jacket movement that protested the country’s growing economic inequality. It’s possible that the support and energy of last year’s Yellow Jacket movement has spilled over into the new demonstrations. Both waves of protestors have criticized President Macron’s policies.
As the strikes continue, law enforcement officials have advised shops and businesses near the protests to remain closed, which may further affect museums and other institutions. Thursday’s planned demonstrations at the Place de la République in Paris took a violent turn as police threw tear gas at demonstrators setting fires, overthrowing containers, throwing bricks, and calling for the resignation of President Macron. The story is developing.