Thursday, December 7, 2023
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Pots and Pans Roar in Protest: French ‘Casserolades’ Challenge Macron’s Pension Overhaul

Spreading across a highway so that no cars could pass, 100 or so protesters banged saucepans in a deafening racket that echoed through this remote valley of eastern France last month. They were marching toward a nearby castle where the French president was due to arrive, determined to stand in his way and create cacophony around the visit.

Suddenly, a helicopter carrying President Emmanuel Macron appeared overhead, the sound of its blades briefly drowning out the din. Although the boisterous demonstrators didn’t stop the French leader’s visit, the scene was an earsplitting reminder of the fury that has dogged his government since it enacted a highly unpopular pension overhaul this spring that raised the legal age of retirement to 64 from 62.

For weeks, opponents of the change have been harassing Mr. Macron and his cabinet members by banging pots and pans on their official trips. In a country with no shortage of kitchenware, the protests, known as “casserolades,” after the French word for saucepan, have disrupted or stopped dozens visits by ministers to schools and factories.

“The desire to deafen and respond with noise reflects a kind of discredit of the political discourse,” Christian Salmon, a French essayist and columnist for the online publication Slate, said in an interview. “We are not being listened to, we are not being heard after weeks of protests. So now we are left with a single option, which is not to listen to you either.”

Mr. Macron’s decision to raise the legal age of retirement is based on his conviction that the country’s current pension system, which is based on payroll taxes, is financially unsustainable. Because retirees supported by active workers are living longer, people must also work longer, he says.

The pension law was pushed through using a constitutional provision that avoided a full parliamentary vote. Mr. Macron defended the move in a televised interview on Monday as an act of responsibility, noting that key government decisions in the past, such as building France’s nuclear-weapons force, had used the same mechanism.

The casserolades began a month ago during a televised speech by Mr. Macron that was intended as a way to move on from the pension upheaval. Determined to keep up the fight, protesters gathered outside City Halls across France to bang pots and pans. In Paris, many residents joined in from their apartment windows, filling entire neighborhoods with metallic notes.


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