The French government has opened an investigation into the burning of an effigy of Emmanuel Macron by furious demonstrators. The public prosecutor’s office confirmed the news after a mannequin with the face of Macron emblazoned on it was burned and beaten in violent scenes.
The public prosecutor had opened an investigation into contempt for a public official, after events that occurred on the first anniversary of the re-election of the president of the Republic.
Eric Vaillant said in a statement: “A police investigation is underway for contempt of public authority.”
The incident, punishable with a prison sentence of one year and a fine of €15,000, happened as protestors gathered to rally against Macron’s pension reforms on Monday.
In a video posted on Twitter by local TV station Télégrenoble, demonstrators can be seen tying to a tree a mannequin with a picture of President Macron’s face, a white shirt and black tie and wearing a crown, before beating it with a stick and then setting it on fire while shouting slogans and banging pots and pans.
Hundreds of people opposed to the new law raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 demonstrated last week in a small town in southern France during a visit by President Macron, while scattered protests were staged elsewhere.
Macron’s trip to Ganges comes amid a concerted new effort by him and his government to move on from the furor caused by the pension reform.
Demonstrators sang what has become the anthem of the retirement protests: “We are here, we are here, even if Macron doesn’t want (us to be here), we are here.”
The French president met with teachers and students at a middle school, where he promoted his education policies. At his arrival, the site was hit by a power cut, which the local branch of the hard-left CGT union said was a protest action.
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Dozens of police were deployed in the small town to prevent protesters from getting close to the school. They briefly used tear gas to disperse people who tried to storm the barriers.
Raising the retirement age ignited a months-long firestorm of protest. Demonstrators were further infuriated after Macron’s government in March chose to use a special constitutional power to pass the reform without a vote in parliament.
Later Thursday, Macron made a surprise stop in another small town in southern France, Perols, where he walked in the streets to meet with some residents in a relaxed atmosphere, shaking hands and doing selfies.
To a woman who told him she disagreed with the way he forced the pension changes through parliament, calling it undemocratic, he said, smiling: “I’m not going to resign.”
The woman replied: “You don’t care what people want.”
Macron has argued that raising the retirement age is needed to keep the French pension system afloat amid an aging population. Unions and other opponents say wealthy taxpayers or companies should pitch in more instead, and see the reform as an erosion of France’s social safety net.
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega