French President Emmanuel Macron poses for a selfie with school children as he visits a middle school, in Ganges, southern France, on April 20, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

Ganges: French police fired teargas Thursday in a village in southern France where President Emmanuel Macron visited a school, a day after he was booed and heckled over his unpopular pension reform.

After facing angry voters on Wednesday in eastern Alsace, the 45-year-old head of state travelled to the southern Herault region on Thursday to discuss education.

The trips outside Paris are intended to signal his desire to turn the page on his unpopular pensions changes and demonstrate he is not hiding from voters, many of whom have been outraged by the way the legislation was passed.

Saying he wanted to “acknowledge and pay teachers better”, the 45-year-old former investment banker announced at a school in the village of Ganges that they would receive between 100-230 euros ($110-250) more a month after tax from September.

In the run up to his speech, police fired teargas when hundreds of people shouting “Macron, resign!” and blowing whistles tried to advance towards the school.

Local authorities also announced a ban on “portable sound equipment” which a spokesman said was meant to target amplifiers and speakers.

But the regional head of the CGT union, Mathieu Guy, told AFP that protesters had also been prevented from entering the secure area close to the school with pans as well as local flutes, known as “fifres”.

Macron’s left-wing political opponents urged their supporters to bash pans during Macron’s televised address to the nation on Monday evening and the age-old protest tactic appears to be becoming an audible sign of discontent at Macron’s policies.

‘Democratic crisis’

The apparent pan ban led to ridicule on Thursday, with Communist party spokesman Ian Brossat saying he “couldn’t wait for the legislation which will ban the sale of saucepans.”

“Is it possible to leave a democratic crisis behind by banning saucepans?” asked leading Greens MP Sandrine Rousseau.

Speaking to voters on Wednesday, Macron argued again that raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 was necessary to help France reduce its public spending and bring the country into line with its European neighbours.

He signed the legislation into law on Friday evening after a green light from the country’s constitutional court.

Other protests continued on Thursday, with union members entering the headquarters of the pan-European stock exchange Euronext in the main Paris business district.

Demonstrators also forced their way into the headquarters of the LVMH luxury goods empire last Thursday.

Some rail workers also went on strike again on Thursday, forcing the cancellation of one in five regional trains and some commuter services.