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France Braces for Violent New Protests 03/28 06:08


   PARIS (AP) -- Protests and strikes against unpopular pension reforms kicked 
off again Tuesday across France, with police security ramped up against feared 
violence and government warnings that radical demonstrators intend "to destroy, 
to injure and to kill."

   Fears that violence could mar the demonstrations prompted what Interior 
Minister Grald Darmanin described as an unprecedented deployment of 13,000 
officers, nearly half of them concentrated in the French capital.

   Protests got underway peacefully Tuesday morning, with large crowds in 
multiple cities. In Paris, striking railway workers with burning flares and 
flags invaded and blocked train tracks serving one of the capital's main 
stations, Gare de Lyon.

   Police were braced for violence later in the day. The interior minister said 
more than 1,000 "radical" troublemakers, some from overseas, could latch on to 
marches planned in Paris and elsewhere.

   "They come to destroy, to injure and to kill police officers and gendarmes. 
Their goals have nothing to do with the pension reform. Their goals are to 
destabilize our republican institutions and bring blood and fire down on 
France," the minister said Monday in detailing the policing measures.

   Union leaders and political foes of President Emmanuel Macron blame his 
government for protest violence that has flared in recent weeks, saying his 
push to raise France's legal retirement age from 62 to 64 sparked it.

   Critics also allege that police officers used excessive force against 
protesters. A police oversight body is investigating multiple claims of 
wrongdoing by officers.

   The striking railway workers at Gare de Lyon marched behind a banner that 
alleged: "The police mutilates. We don't forgive!"

   The new wave of protests was the 10th time since January that unions have 
called on workers to walk out and for demonstrators to flood the nation's 
streets against Macron's proposal.

   Unable to get a majority in parliament's lower house for the unpopular 
reforms, Macron rammed them through using a special constitutional power, 
further inflaming protesters' anger.

   "Everybody is getting madder," said Clment Saild, a train passenger at Gare 
de Lyon who said he supports the strikes despite their impact on transportation 
and other services.

   "I am 26, and I wonder if I will ever retire," he said.

   Another passenger, Helene Cogan, 70, said: "French people are stubborn and 
things are getting out of hand."

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