French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said Friday that a state visit by Britain’s King Charles III has been postponed amid mass strikes and protests in France.
The king had been scheduled to arrive in France on Sunday on his first state visit as monarch, before heading to Germany on Wednesday.
The Elysee palace in France said in a statement that the French and British governments made the decision together after a call between Macron and Charles on Friday morning. The Elysee noted a new day of mass strikes and protests planned for Tuesday.
Protesters angry at French President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms continued with scattered actions on Friday amid slowed train traffic, rows of trucks blocking access to Marseille’s commercial port and debris still littering the Paris streets following the previous day’s mass demonstrations.
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 some 441 police and gendarmes were injured as violence marred some marches.
He added that 1,000 trash bins were set on fire in the French capital during the previous day’s action. Amid a weeks-long refuse collectors strike, trash bins have become a symbol of the protest.
Polls say most French oppose Macron’s bill to increase the retirement age from 62 to 64, which he says is necessary to keep the system afloat.
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 Agnès 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 canceled Sunday at Paris’ second airport, Orly, with 20% to be canceled Monday.
Unions have called for new protests and strikes on Tuesday, when Britain’s King Charles III is scheduled to visit Bordeaux on the second day of his trip to France. 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.” Hurmic said that he hopes Charles’ visit to his city next week will not be canceled.
“I hope that we do not give this gift to the thugs,” he said, although he acknowledged that a tram ride with the king may now be off the cards.
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.
Protesters chanted slogans and held placards that read “Macron, your democracy hangs on nine votes” and “From Greece: victory for the workers of France.”