Fiery France protests lead to cancellation of King Charles visit next week

Protesters angry at French President Emmanuel Macron's pension reforms continued with scattered actions on Friday, as the unrest across the country led officials to postpone a planned state visit by Britain's King Charles.

Protests, strikes over pension change expected to continue into next week, when Charles was to visit

A large fire is shown in front of a building, with people in helmets in the foreground.
A firefighter stands near a man filming a fire of garbage during a protest on Thursday night in Paris. Garbage service, airline traffic and energy production have seen disruptions due to demonstrations against pension reforms that would effectively raise the retirement age. (Anna Kurth/AFP/Getty Images)

Protesters angry at French President Emmanuel Macron's pension reforms continued with scattered actions on Friday, as the unrest across the country led officials to postpone a planned state visit by King Charles.

Although no major protests were planned on Friday, train traffic was slowed, rows of trucks blocked access to Marseille's commercial port and debris still littered the Paris streets following the previous day's mass demonstrations.

Macron said "common sense and friendship" led to the cancellation of the King's visit. Speaking at a news conference after a summit in Brussels, Macron said: "We would not be serious … to make a state visit in the middle of protests."

He also said that proceeding with the visit that had been scheduled to start on Sunday "would have prompted incidents" that would have been "detestable."

He said Charles's visit likely would be rescheduled for the beginning of summer.

Over 450 protesters were arrested in Paris and beyond on Thursday as some 300 demonstrations drew more than a million people nationwide to protest against unpopular pension reforms.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said Friday that 441 police and gendarmes were injured as violence marred some marches.

An older man in a suit and tie is shown walking past a reception line.
King Charles III shakes employees' hands on Thursday during a visit to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London. Charles will still visit Germany next week. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/Getty Images)

He said that 1,000 trash bins were set on fire in the French capital during the previous day's action. Amid a weeks-long garbage collectors strike, trash bins have become a symbol of the protest.

Charles had been scheduled to arrive in France on Sunday on his first state visit as monarch, before heading to Germany on Wednesday. The German part of the trip was still going ahead.

Bordeaux city hall building set afire

Unions have called for new protests and strikes on Tuesday, the day King Charles had been scheduled to visit Bordeaux. The heavy wooden door of the elegant Bordeaux city hall was destroyed by fire Thursday night by people taking part in an unauthorized demonstration.

The mayor of Bordeaux, Pierre Hurmic, said Friday he had "difficulty understanding the interest of such acts of vandalism."

A historic building with large columns is shown charred and blackened in a nighttime photo.
People stand next to the gate of Bordeaux's city hall after it was set on fire by protesters after a demonstration, a week after the French government pushed pension reform through parliament without a vote. (Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images)

The supply of fuel to Paris by the large Gonfreville-L'Orcher refinery in Normandy resumed Friday after police intervened, according to Energy Transition Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher. At the Fos-sur-mer oil terminal near Marseille, however, protesters were meeting to plan future oil refinery blockades.

Fearing disruptions in coming days as actions continue, France's Civil Aviation Authority has requested that a third of flights be cancelled Sunday at Paris's second airport, Orly, with 20 per cent to be cancelled Monday.

The protests have drawn support from beyond France's borders. In Greece, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the French Embassy in Athens on Thursday to show solidarity.

WATCH | Protesters want French government to repeal pension changes:

Pension reform protests in France show no signs of stopping

6 months ago
Duration 2:20
Hundreds of thousands of people continue to demonstrate across France against controversial pension reforms. The protests are largely peaceful, but there have been numerous violent clashes with police.

Macron says the bill to increase the retirement age from 62 to 64 is necessary to keep the financial system afloat, as the country spends more on its pension system than Western peers.

The government, which survived a pair of no-confidence votes this week, also says it has negotiated for months with unions and opposition parties to come to a satisfactory agreement on pension reform, but to no avail.

With files from CBC News