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Scuffles break out as protesters invade Paris’ Gare de Lyon station

File Photo: French transportation workers' strike continues for a 19th day against pension reform plans in France, December 23, 2019. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Protesters scuffled with police at Gare de Lyon station in Paris on Monday as a nationwide strike against plans by French President Emmanuel Macron to change the country’s pension system dragged on into a 19th day.

French TV station BFM showed footage of riot police tangling with around 30 protesters at the Gare de Lyon, one of the French capital’s busiest stations and often used for travel to ski resorts in the Alps.

Protesters let off flares and fireworks, releasing smoke that drifted down into the station concourse.

The walkouts, which have disrupted Christmas preparations, have also affected other main Paris stations such as the Gare du Nord, which handles the Eurostar services to London and Brussels, and the Gare de l’Est.

“I understand (the strike) but I am not OK with it as I think all French people are being held hostage and it is difficult for us to understand what the goal is,” said Damien Dremont, a commuter at the Gare de L’Est.

Two weeks of nationwide industrial action against Macron’s pension reform, which would scrap special pensions for many public sector staff and make people work to 64 to draw a full pension, have crippled France’s transport network.

France’s oil sector workers are also expected to vote in favour of shutting down oil refineries as part of the protest.

In a bid to defuse the public anger, Macron over the weekend decided to forego a special presidential pension payout when he eventually steps down.

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