France's Macron heckled by crowd angry over pensions

By AP News

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French President Emmanuel Macron has been met by hecklers and shouts for him to resign when he mingled a crowd in eastern France

France Macron

PARIS (AP) — In France, when presidents take strolls among the public, they’re described as “taking a crowd bath.” Emmanuel Macron took a very cold one on Wednesday.

Braving hecklers who shouted for him to resign, the French leader threw himself into the uphill task of repairing damage done to his presidency by forcing through unpopular pension reforms, taking his first such “crowd bath” since he enacted the law last week.

The visit to eastern France, close to the border with Germany, was part of a concerted new effort by Macron and his government to put the furor caused by the pension change behind him. Raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 has ignited a months-long firestorm of protest in France.

The uproarious climate of discontent threatens Macron’s ability to get some other planned policies through in the remaining four years of his second and last term. He got to see first-hand how unhappy people still are when he mingled among a crowd in the town of Selestat.

One man who shook his hand didn't hold back and told Macron that his government is “corrupt” -- a claim that Macron immediately denied.

“You’ll soon fall! You’ll see,” the man said.

Working his way along the crowd, which was kept back by a metal barrier, Macron argued for his pension reform but also acknowledged that it was "unpopular."

“It doesn’t make anyone happy to work more and for longer,” he said.

Still, he insisted that he wouldn’t be cowed from mixing with people.

“I’ve known worse,” he said.

In the background, some shouted “Macron, resign!,” or intoned a song that has become an anthem of the retirement protests.

Earlier Wednesday, during a visit to a company specializing in wooden buildings, Macron was met by a more silent protest.

Lawmaker Emmanuel Fernandes of the far-left France Unbowed party appeared wearing a gag over his mouth bearing the number 49-3, in reference to the constitutional article that the government used to force the new pension age through parliament without a vote.

The hard-left CGT union plans scattered protest actions Thursday, and all of France's main unions plan new nationwide protests on May 1 to coincide with International Workers' Day.

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Author: AP News

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