Protesters loudly banged pots and pans near a castle where French President Emmanuel Macron was to make a speech Thursday, in what has become a popular way to voice anger at a resented new law raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.
Similar saucepan actions, dubbed “casserolades, " were staged elsewhere in the country where government members were scheduled to travel.
Macron attended a ceremony for the 175th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in France at the Fort de Joux, near the border with Switzerland, a castle where the most prominent leader of the Haitian slave revolution, Toussaint Louverture, was imprisoned and died in 1803.
As police were preventing protesters from getting too close to the Fort de Joux, Macron made a surprise stop in the nearby town of Dole to meet with French people on a street market without the clattering of pots and pans.
Yet he was not able to avoid all criticism, with several people raising their concerns out loud — from the pension changes to rising prices of food and energy and the deterioration of public hospital care.
A woman told him that people disagree with “working two more years without making more money in their daily life.”
Macron said that “we must carry out some reforms, even if they are unpopular, because if we don't, we cannot create wealth and be able to redistribute it.”
The hard-left CGT union also staged scattered protests Thursday.
Dozens of protesters and unionists walked in the terminals of the Paris Charles-de-Gaulle airport, singing and holding a big banner writing “64, it’s no!” and demanding the withdrawal of the pension law. The demonstration didn't disrupt flights.
Hundreds of employees of state-owned electricity company Enedis parked their blue company vehicles outside the gates of the iconic Versailles Palace — former seat of the French monarchs — near Paris, in another symbolic action.
Raising the retirement age ignited a months-long firestorm of protest. Opponents were further angered after Macron’s government in March chose to use a special constitutional power to pass the reform without a vote in parliament.
Saucepan actions began last week during a televised speech by Macron. Protesters gathered in over 400 spots in front of town halls and in the streets of Paris, Marseille, Toulouse, Strasbourg and beyond, in an effort to drown out his voice.
Similar events have since been staged each time the French president travelled across France.
All of France’s main unions are planning to hold nationwide protests on May 1 to coincide with International Workers’ Day.