Protesters Storm BlackRock Headquarters In Paris
Massive protests have erupted in the streets of France over the government’s pension reforms, and the protesters have now descended upon the Paris headquarters of the world’s largest asset manager, BlackRock.
After French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron’s government decided to increase the retirement age from 62 to 64, protesters took to the streets to demand the action be rescinded. The protests quickly turned to riots in some areas, with some demonstrators marching into Le Centorial block while carrying flares and firing smoke bombs.
According to The Telegraph, railway workers’ union members even set off incendiary devices inside the atrium of the Centorial building — which reportedly filled the entire building with smoke.
BlackRock, an extremely controversial company that currently has more than $10 trillion under management and often promotes far-left causes, has an office located on the third floor of the Centorial building.
Roughly 100 demonstrators, including some trade unionists, began chanting and hollering below BlackRock’s office — while some shouted anti-capitalist slogans and 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, a spokesman for French union SUD, told BFM-TV.
While Schmitt stated that the meaning of the demonstration was simple, some of the protesters seem to disagree on what that meaning was.
One demonstrator stated they were protesting because of the link between BlackRock and companies that allegedly harm the environment, while another blamed the asset management company for lobbying to break the French pension model.
The main catalyst behind the initial protests, according to The Guardian, was the failure of talks between Macron and trade unions.
During the talks, the representative for the country’s eight main unions — Cyril Chabanier — stated: “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, forced through his controversial and unpopular pension plan back in March through a unilateral action — bypassing a vote from the parliament.
According to a January poll from Elabe, nearly three-fifths of French citizens opposed Macron’s pension plan — while the majority of them sympathized with the planned demonstrations and 46% even indicated they were willing to join them.
The pension reform was implemented in an attempt to prevent France’s pensions system from falling into a deficit, especially because the country has the lowest qualifying age for a state pension among the major nations in Europe.
“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,” according to a source close to Macron that spoke with Reuters.
The demonstrations from January to early March were relatively peaceful, including a nationwide protest on March 7 that had roughly 1.28 million participants. However, when Macron bypassed parliament on March 16 to unilaterally impose his pension reform, demonstrators began clashing with law enforcement officials.
As the demonstrations escalated, France began to experience property damage, fires, barricades and smoke bombs. On March 23 alone, law enforcement arrested 80 people and 123 police officers were injured.
Meanwhile, CGT union’s general secretary Sophie Binet told BFM-TV that the French government will face serious consequences if they don’t take action.
“The government will not be able to run the country if they do not take back the reform,” she said.