By Yonathan Van der Voort
PARIS (Reuters) – Teenager Charles Chauliac is angry that French President Emmanuel Macron plans to delay the retirement of hard-working folk like his parents, and that he bypassed parliament to do so.
Most evenings for the past few weeks, the 18-year-old has taken to the streets of Paris to try and force a U-turn.
Marching through Paris, dodging police, he joins other young people in spontaneous protests, chanting: “We are here, we are here, even if Macron does not want it, we are here.”
The reform, which raises the age at which most people can draw a pension by two years to 64, is more immediately relevant to their parents than to youngsters like Chauliac.
However, youths have joined protests in growing numbers, since the government decided to bypass parliament – a concern for authorities in a country where having young people on your side for street protests can be decisive.
“We’re really upset with the bill being forced through,” Chauliac said.
The latest wave of protests and clashes has become the most violent, and most serious, challenge to Macron’s authority since the “Yellow Vest” revolt of disgruntled working class people four years ago.
For sure, the increase in the retirement age is one of the reasons why Chauliac and his friends take to the streets.
“I have two parents who are killing themselves at work and damaging their health and I don’t want to see them die at work,” said the youngster, who does civic service helping pupils in a junior high school.
But Macron’s leadership style and the government’s decision to bypass parliament have further angered many. Tags sprayed on the walls of Paris in recent days have targeted Macron, or simply read: Democracy.
“When you have institutions that really don’t listen when we hold demonstrations that are more peaceful and that are declared, you have to find other ways to act and be seen,” said fellow teenage protester, Elisa Ferreira.
Chauliac, Ferreira and fellow students join spontaneous protests thanks to private groups on social media, to avoid being noticed by police, he said, showing a message on his phone that asked: “Who’s coming tonight?”.
While some protesters have torched bins, thrown rocks at police or smashed shop windows and bus stops, Chauliac insists he hasn’t.
But he adds: “A more radical movement is emerging … because no one listens to us.”
(Writing by Ingrid Melander and Yiming Woo; Editing by Christina Fincher)