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Protesters storm BlackRock headquarters in Paris

Image source: Twitter video, @WatcherGuru - Screenshot

Massive protests condemning the Macron government's pension reforms have swept the nation in recent weeks. Macron is increasing the retirement age from 62 to 64.

Demonstrators seeking to strike a nerve went beyond the streets Thursday and stormed the Paris headquarters of BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, with over $10 trillion under management.

Protesters marched into Le Centorial block carrying flares and firing smoke bombs, reported CNN.

The Telegraph reported that members of the railway workers' union set off incendiary devices in the atrium of the Centorial building, filling it with smoke.

Below BlackRock's office on the third floor, roughly 100 people, including some trade unionists, chanted and hollered. Some regurgitated anti-capitalist slogans while others sang labor songs.

"The meaning of this action is quite simple. We went to the headquarters of BlackRock to tell them: the money of workers, for our pensions, they are taking it," Jerome Schmitt, spokesman for French union SUD, told BFM-TV.

While Schmitt indicated the meaning was simple, different protesters derived other meanings from the incident.

One protester cited BlackRock's links to companies that allegedly harm the environment as cause for the fiery ingress, reported the Telegraph.

The accusation that BlackRock's chairman lobbied to break the French pension model was another rationale provided.

The Guardian reported that hundreds of thousands of Frenchmen took to the streets after talks between trade unions and French President Emmanuel Macron failed.

During the talks, Cyril Chabanier, representing the country's eight main unions, said, "We again told the prime minister that the only democratic outcome would be the text’s withdrawal. The prime minister replied that she wished to maintain the text, a serious decision."

Macron, a former World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, took unilateral action in March, bypassing a parliamentary vote and forcing through his unpopular pension plan.

A January Elabe poll revealed that nearly three-fifths of Frenchmen opposed the pension reform, reported Bloomberg. The same poll revealed that the majority sympathized with the planned protests, and 46% indicated they were willing to take part.

His government reasoned that doing so would prevent the pensions system from falling into deficit. France has the lowest qualifying age for a state pension among the major European nations.

Reuters reported that a source close to Macron claimed, "If the role of a president of the republic is to make decisions according to public opinion, there is no need to have elections. ... Being president is to assume choices that may be unpopular at a given time."

While protests were relatively peaceful through January and early March — including the nationwide demonstration on March 7 that saw 1.28 million people turn out — Macron's parliamentary bypass on March 16 triggered significant clashes between demonstrators and law enforcement officials.

There were 80 arrests and 123 police officers injured on March 23 alone. Property damage, fires, barricades, and smoke bombs have also been common in recent days.

Sophie Binet, general secretary of the CGT union, told BFM-TV, "The government will not be able to run the country if they do not take back the reform."
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