Louvre in Paris stormed by protesters as anger over Macron's pension reform boils over

Critics of government's agenda march through museum's corridors carrying flags

Striking union members form a picket line outside the Louvre in Paris on Monday. Getty Images
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Protesters against French President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform have forced the closure of the Louvre in Paris, frustrating crowds of visitors.

Hundreds of demonstrators, many carrying trade union flags, gathered outside the museum on Monday to demonstrate against a government decision to raise the pension age.

“The Mona Lisa is on strike,” said one protester.

The protest came as Mr Macron summoned government ministers for a crisis meeting, nearly two weeks after he pushed the new law through parliament using a special provision sidestepping any vote.

Unions have vowed no let-up in mass protests in an attempt to force the government to back down.

Striking labour union members and employees of an incineration plant block its entrance in Ivry-sur-Seine, outside Paris. EPA

They have called for another day of action on Tuesday, the 10th such mobilisation since protests started in mid-January against the controversial law, which includes raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.

Mr Macron, whose approval ratings in opinion polls are at a low ebb, last week said he accepted the "unpopularity" that came with the reforms.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, meanwhile, said that while there was no plan to drop the legislation, she was ready to open new dialogue with unions.

"We have to find the right path ... we need to calm down," she said.

Starting on Monday, Ms Borne has scheduled talks over three weeks, with MPs, political parties, local authorities and unions.

Footage from the Louvre posted on social media appeared to show that dozens of demonstrators had broken through barriers and marched through the corridors of the museum.

Some carried flags of the General Confederation of Labour union and the Solidarity, Unitary and Democratic Union of Culture. They said they had joined forces with several unions and striking Louvre staff to stage the protest.

Demonstrating peacefully against plans to make most people work an extra two years to balance the pension budget, a small number of protesters gathered at the foot of the Louvre's glass pyramid. One banner read "Retire at 60 — work less to live longer".

A queue of disappointed tourists snaked through the courtyard.

"This is ridiculous, we come from everywhere in the world with our children to visit a museum and it’s ridiculous that 20 people are blocking the entrance," said Samuel, a Mexican tourist who did not give his surname.

"I really understand where they're coming from and it's fair enough," said Jane, a visitor from London. "But we all would like to go and see Mona Lisa, but never mind."

The museum issued a statement on the closure, saying it had been closed since 9am "on the initiative of the museum staff union".

“This initiative is part of the continued mobilisation of the inter-union Culture to demand the withdrawal of the pension reform," it added.

There was a heavy police presence in the courtyard outside the major tourist attraction as protesters listened to speeches from organisers.

“Museums mobilised against pension reform,” read one hand-painted banner.

“Work less to live more,” read another.

“We don’t go back,” said a third.

One man who shared a picture of the gathering on Twitter wrote: “The Mona Lisa is on strike. Samothrace too! Louvre blocked today by the inter-union CGT SUD.”

The rally during rush hour on Monday morning is the latest flashpoint in nationwide protests against Mr Macron’s unpopular plan.

Britain's King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla cancelled a planned visit to France due to the precarious security situation.

On Saturday, following days of demonstrations in towns and cities across France, thousands of protesters travelled from far afield to a reservoir in the south-western village of Sainte-Soline to oppose the construction of vast water storage plants. They argue that the “basins” to irrigate crops will distort access to water amid drought conditions.

While separate to demonstrations against pension reforms, the gathering — which became violent — added fuel to the fire of social discontent gripping France.

One protester was on Sunday fighting for his life after sustaining head injuries at the rally. Twenty-nine police officers were injured.

Updated: March 27, 2023, 12:05 PM