During nationwide protests against French President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms, a total of 457 people were arrested and 441 security forces injured on Thursday, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.
Speaking to the CNews channel on Friday morning, Darmanin also said that 903 fires had been lit on the streets of Paris on what was by far the most violent day protests since they started in January.
“There were many demonstrations and some of them became violentespecially in Paris,” Darmanin added, saying the toll was “difficult” while praising the police for protecting the more than millions who marched through France.
Police had warned that anarchist groups would infiltrate the Paris march, and young men in hoods and face masks were seen smashing windows and setting fire to uncollected rubbish in the latter stages of the demonstration.
Darmanin, a right-wing hardliner in Macron’s centrist government, has dismissed demands from protesters to withdraw pension reforms, which parliament passed in controversial circumstances last week.
“I don’t think we should repeal this law because of violence,” he said. “If so, that means there is no state. We should accept democratic, societal debate, but not violent debate.”
Elsewhere, the entrance to Bordeaux’s town hall was set ablaze in clashes in the south-west wine export hub on Thursday.
“I have trouble understanding and accepting this type of vandalism,” Bordeaux Mayor Pierre Hurmic told RTL radio on Friday.
“Why would you target our community building? I can only condemn it in the strongest terms.”
British King Charles III is scheduled to visit the southwestern city next Tuesday and was expected to visit City Hall and meet with Hurmic.