Ongoing protests in France force Britain’s King Charles to postpone visit

Protester kicking a tear gas canister in front of Paris opera house
A protester kicks a tear gas canister in front of Paris’ opera house.
(Aurelien Morissard / Associated Press)

Protesters angry over French President Emmanuel Macron’s pension changes staged scattered actions Friday, with the ongoing unrest leading officials to postpone a planned state visit by Britain’s King Charles III.

Demonstrators had demanded that the British monarch cancel his trip, which was scheduled to start Sunday. The protests and labor strikes against Macron’s decision to raise France’s retirement age from 62 to 64 already had threatened to affect Charles’ planned visit, with workers refusing to roll out the red carpet for his arrival.

Macron said “common sense and friendship” required delaying the visit, adding that it would probably have become a protest target and created a “detestable situation.”


“We would not be serious … to make a state visit in the middle of protests,” the French leader said, speaking at a news conference after a summit in Brussels.

Macron condemned the violent behavior that has taken place at some of the protests against his pension plan, saying “violence has no place in a democracy.”

The pension plan raises the retirement age in France from 62 to 64 despite weeks of protests across the country against it.

March 20, 2023

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

More than 450 protesters were arrested Thursday in Paris and beyond as some 300 demonstrations around the country drew more than 1 million people. Polls show that most French people oppose Macron’s pension changes, which he says are necessary to keep the system afloat.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said Friday that some 441 police and gendarmes were injured as violence marred some marches. He added that 1,000 trashcans were set on fire in the French capital during the previous day’s action. Amid a weeks-long garbage collectors strike, trashcans have become a symbol of the protest.

Now we need to update our thinking about when a person becomes ‘old.’ It’s not at 62, even if the French would like to retire then.

March 22, 2023

Charles and Camilla, the queen consort, planned to visit both France and Germany during the king’s first trip abroad as monarch. He still plans to go to Germany, but British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s office said another date would be found for the French leg.


“The king and queen consort’s state visit to France has been postponed,” Sunak’s office said. “This decision was taken with the consent of all parties, after the president of France asked the British government to postpone the visit.”

Charles had been scheduled to visit Bordeaux on the second day of his trip. 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, Pierre Hurmic, said Friday that he had “difficulty understanding the interest of such acts of vandalism.”

Before the king’s visit was postponed, Hurmic said he hoped it wouldn’t get canceled. “I hope that we do not give this gift to the thugs,” he said.

Fires in Paris that were intentionally lit in narrow or inaccessible alleys Thursday night alarmed both city officials and residents. Firefighters and residents worked together to tame flames that rose to the second story of an apartment building in the chic Palais Royal area.

Oil refineries have been another protest target. On Friday, emboldened protesters headed to the Fos-sur-mer oil depot near Marseille to stop trucks from entering or leaving. However, fuel supplies to Paris from the large Gonfreville-L’Orcher refinery in Normandy resumed Friday after police intervened, French Energy Transition Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said.

Fearing disruptions in coming days, France’s Civil Aviation Authority has requested that one-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 Tuesday.