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France strike: Protests turn violent as industrial action causes travel chaos | World News

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Police have been seen dragging and beating protesters as demonstrations in Paris turned violent.

Officers deployed tear gas and used pepper spray as demonstrators threw projectiles and firecrackers.

More than 180,000 union members took to the streets as part of a general strike across the country which led to widespread chaos.

Protesters are tear gassed during clashes with police
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Protesters are tear gassed during clashes with police

Thousands of protesters marched towards Place de la Nation into the evening.

French public sector workers began the walkouts on Thursday over President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to reform the nation’s pension system.

The president says the system is unfair and too costly. He wants a single, points-based system under which for each euro contributed, every pensioner has equal rights.

The current system allows rail workers, mariners and Paris Opera House ballet dancers to retire up to a decade earlier than the average worker.

Railway and airport workers, firefighters, teachers, truck drivers and medics are among those who joined the action.

Yellow vest protest groups, or “Gilets Jaunes”, who brought much of Paris to a halt last year, were also there.

A demonstrator lights a flare
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A demonstrator lights a flare
France strikes
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The industrial action across France is in protest against pension reform

The demonstrations began peacefully as protesters marched along the Boulevard de Magenta.

But the atmosphere shifted when protesters wearing black clothing and protective gear began smashing bus stops and store fronts near the Place de la Republique.

Police struggled to control a number of fires set by demonstrators in the area and had cordoned off the square by the early evening.

The action is expected to paralyse the nation for days, as flights, trains and buses face the biggest wave of industrial action the country has seen for decades.

There are no tickets available on Eurostar trains until Tuesday, with the company saying it has cancelled almost 100 services between now and then.

A masked protester holds an umbrella
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A masked protester holds an umbrella

Airlines including Easyjet, British Airways and Ryanair have opted to cancel many of their flights to and from France, while Air France has said up to a third of its domestic flights would be cancelled.

Signs at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport showed “cancelled” notices.

A number of P&O Ferries services from Dover to Calais were delayed due to the industrial action.

The firm advised people to check its Twitter page for updates.

The SNCF railway company earlier said it expected nine out of 10 high-speed trains to be cancelled and said its services were “severely disrupted”.

Most of the subway system in Paris is also affected.

Commuters in Paris got out their bicycles, turned to carpooling apps or worked from home to avoid the crush on the limited train and metro services.

A smashed Paris information board and a burning bike
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A smashed Paris information board and a burning bike
Police secure the area during a demonstration
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Police secure the area during a demonstration

All businesses, cafes and restaurants along the route in Paris were ordered to close for the day by police.

Hotels across Paris have reported receiving cancellations from tourists who have decided against travelling to France during the industrial action.

“For 30 years successive governments have tried to bring reform and fail because the unions cripple the country,” said 56-year-old cafe owner Isabelle Guibal.

“People can work around it today and tomorrow, but next week people may get annoyed.”



Ghislain Coutard first encouraged protesters to wear yellow vests







‘Yellow vests’ founder speaks to Sky News

Elsewhere around France, thousands of red-vested union activists marched through cities from Marseille on the Mediterranean to Lille in the north.

Riot police in Nantes, western France, fired tear gas at masked protesters who hurled projectiles at them.

In Lyon and Marseille, thousands more protesters carried banners that read: “Don’t touch our pensions”.

A smashed Paris information board and a burning bike
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A smashed Paris information board and a burning bike

Ghislain Coutard, who started the yellow vest movement, told Sky News on Wednesday the protests could lead to a “new beginning” for his country.

“For me, it’s make or break. This is either a new beginning or it’s the end,” he said.

The national strike across France comes as thousands of rail passengers in southern England face misery as a 27-day walkout until New Year’s Day by South Western Railway staff entered its fourth day.

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Beirut explosion: A city in pain that does not know how to heal its wounds | World News

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Seething with anger, Beirut is a traumatised city that is in danger of tearing itself apart.

Tens of thousands of people came from all over the country to the capital to show their utter disgust for the political class that they blame for the explosion that has wrecked the capital.

The protests were the biggest and most violent in months, with young and old gripped by fury at the authorities.

Protesters move through a cloud of tear gas
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Protesters move through a cloud of tear gas

It is a sign of how the blast – which has displaced hundreds of thousands of people – has galvanised a desperate population already at breaking point from a deepening economic and political crisis.

The savings of ordinary people – if they had any – have been wiped out thanks to a plunging currency and Lebanon is now one of the most indebted countries in the world.

Makeshift gallows were constructed in Martyrs’ Square. Many here want to metaphorically hang the ruling elite and remove them from power; others want them to literally swing.

A cardboard cutout of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is placed in a noose
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A cardboard cut-out of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is placed in a noose
A cutout of prime minister Hassan Diab was also placed in a noose
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A cut-out of prime minister Hassan Diab gets the same treatment

One man quivering with rage shouted to me that he was going to kill the country’s leaders because they were responsible, through callous negligence, for the destruction of his beloved Beirut.

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As tear gas choked through the city a burning sense of righteous anger brought more and more people onto the streets.

They were determined to reach the parliament building – a symbol of the rottenness at the heart of the country.

Plastic bullets crackled through the air, and some of the protesters were seriously injured with blood once again spilling onto Beirut’s tired and weary streets.

This was an already battered people facing the full force of state security.

How this fresh wave of protests ends is not yet clear, but what is certain is that no one will accept a return to the status quo.



A vehicle burns as demonstrators try to break through a barrier near the parliament building







Tear gas and clashes in Beirut

In response the prime minister, Hassan Diab, made an unscheduled and brief TV appearance calling for early elections.

But it is a move unlikely to defuse the anger here, and people across country want reform of the entire system.

By early evening the protesters had taken over the foreign ministry, occupying one of the government’s seats of power.

The revolutionary fervour soon spilled into the main banking institution where offices were torched and equipment was smashed.

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Protesters told me the blame for what is becoming a hellish descent into chaos lies only with the ruling class, who are accused of plundering the nation’s resources.

More protests are planned for the coming days, but for now this is a city in pain that does not know how to heal its wounds.

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Coronavirus: Paris imposes face masks along the River Seine and in other outdoors areas | World News

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Wearing a face mask outdoors in some crowded parts of Paris will become mandatory next week, as France battles a surge in coronavirus infections.

Areas of the French capital where the new measures will be enforced include the banks of the River Seine and along the Canal St Martin as well as open-air markets and other places where social distancing is difficult, local officials said.

Tourist sites such as the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Elysees boulevard were not included.

France is experiencing a spike in coronavirus infections. More than 2,200 new cases were reported on Friday, the biggest single-day increase since May. That brought the total for the week to 9,330.

Paris is imposing face masks in some outdoor areas
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Masks will become compulsory along the banks of the River Seine

Under the new measures, masks will become mandatory for all people aged 11 and over as of Monday morning and will remain in place for one month.

Those breaching the order face a fine of €135 (£120).

Wearing a mask outdoors is also mandatory in some crowded parts of cities including Marseilles, the country’s second largest, Nice and Lille. The glamorous French Riviera resort of Saint-Tropez is also requiring face masks outdoors.

France has suffered more than 30,000 coronavirus deaths since the start of the pandemic.

The country made it compulsory to wear a face mask in closed public spaces such as shops and banks since 21 July.

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The national government’s top scientific body said this week that the situation is “precarious”.

“We could at any moment tip into a scenario that is less under control, like in Spain,” it said.

“It is highly likely that we will experience a second epidemic wave this autumn or winter.”

European countries are experiencing new flare-ups after easing lockdown restrictions to try to limit the economic damage and alleviate public frustration.

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Beirut: Riot police fire tear gas at protesters as anger grows over port explosion | World News

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Tear gas has been fired in Beirut as people protesting against the government’s handling of this week’s explosion tried to reach the parliament building.

Riot police took action as about 5,000 people gathered in the central Martyrs’ Square and attempted to break through a barrier.

“The people want the fall of the regime,” protesters chanted, adding: “Leave, you are all killers.”

Demonstrators run away from tear gas fired by riot police
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Demonstrators run away from tear gas fired by riot police

Makeshift gallows and nooses have been set up.

Sky News correspondent Alex Rossi, who is there, said residents have been “enormously angry” since the explosion happened, adding: “People here want to – metaphorically at least – hang their political class.”

He said there was a “huge amount of structural damage to the buildings” and hardly any windows have glass in them.

A vehicle burns as demonstrators try to break through a barrier near the parliament building
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A vehicle burns as demonstrators try to break through a barrier near the parliament building

Student Celine Dibo, speaking as she scrubbed blood off the walls of her shattered apartment building, said there was “no trust” in the government, adding: “I wish the United Nations would take over Lebanon.”

More from Beirut Explosion

Psychologist Maryse Hayek said the Lebanese people are “living in ground zero”.

“I hope another country would just take us over. Our leaders are a bunch of corrupt people,” he said.

Lebanese demonstrators throw tear gas canisters back at security forces
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Lebanese demonstrators throw tear gas canisters back at security forces

One of the demonstrators in Martyrs’ Square, Rose Sirour, said: “We want a future with dignity – we don’t want the blood of the victims of the explosion wasted.”

The number of dead has risen to 158, the Lebanese health ministry said. At least 6,000 have been injured, while 21 people remain missing.

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