For his first visit to France, the new King of England will find himself in the midst of a social revolt, linking strikes and demonstrations.
By Theo Sauvignet
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IKing Charles III has chosen France for his first visit abroad and is due to arrive this Sunday March 26 in the capital. On the program for the first day: a ceremony at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe, a speech in the Senate and a State banquet at the Palace of Versailles. All these trips will not spare the successor of Elizabeth II the observation of the extent of the protest against the pension reform in France: more than 9,000 tonnes of waste were still accumulated in the streets of Paris a week earlier.
The requisition of 150 agents from the town hall of Paris – which is responsible in particular for collecting garbage in the three districts around the Arc de Triomphe – will be difficult to suffice: in one day, only 700 tons of waste were treated by the personnel involved. The garbage collectors have decided to renew the strike for an additional week, until March 27, the day of the departure of the royal couple for Bordeaux.
On the mobilization side, the king will escape the most important rally scheduled for Thursday, but it is not excluded that others will be organized by his arrival. Nevertheless, any inconvenience linked to a motorcade of protesters on Sunday would be reminiscent of an incident in 2004, when Jacques Chirac arrived late at Buckingham Palace after being blocked by hunting supporters in the midst of a protest against the ban on their practice in London. The entourage of the French president, perhaps looking for an excuse, had suspected the Crown of having knowingly lacked firmness in dispersing the demonstrators with the aim of forcing the Chirac spouses into a protocol fault.
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To ensure the supervision of a mobilization against the pension reform which is increasingly looking like a revolt against the presidency, the French state is planning a device rarely seen in the country. This Thursday, 12,000 police officers will be deployed in France to manage the paroxysmal mobilization, including 5,000 in Paris. The violence reached a level that had not been seen since the Yellow Vests crisis: burnt garbage cans, broken windows, exacerbated police violence. Three hundred members of the police have been injured since the start of the protest linked to the pension reform and dozens of demonstrators have been arrested all over France, sometimes in questionable conditions.
If the dispute calms down on Sunday, King Charles III should avoid the processions, where we denounce in particular the monarchical posture taken by the presidency of Emmanuel Macron, described by Sandrine Rousseau as a “Republican monarch”. In any case, no walkabout is expected.
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The employees of the Mobilier national have announced that they will not participate in the reception of the king on Sunday evening at Versailles. “We are fully aware that at the end of the week the King of England will be welcomed in France and that our services will be requested. We say: it has nothing to do with the protocol, it will be without us! “they explained in a press release from CGT Culture. On strike, the employees also spoke of their support for the movement which agitates the English sector of culture to protest against the increase in prices.
Bordeaux: compromised tram ride
As soon as he arrives in Bordeaux on Monday noon, His Highness’ program could again be disrupted: the Crown, very attached to ecology, has chosen to travel from Saint-Jean station to Place de la Bourse by tram. However, urban transport workers in the metropolis of Bordeaux have decided otherwise and will probably take the opportunity to make their voices heard against the pension reform.
“No driver will want to drive it” affirmed a CFTC delegate in South West, slipping that the lanes will be occupied. The royal procession should then find an alternative to transport the king to the place of his lunch with the mayor (EELV) of Bordeaux, Pierre Hurmic, then to organic vineyards in the region.
After a tour in Aquitaine, where the king will also see (at his request) the damage linked to the fires of last summer, Charles III will leave for the second country of his tour, Germany, on Wednesday March 29. Since one of the objectives of this visit is to relaunch the Franco-British couple after Brexit, the king should not hold it against the French for potential upheavals in the program linked to the dispute, in addition to the famous British politeness. This would be all the less legitimate since the situation is comparable to the United Kingdom, where multiple strikes are shaking all sectors of the country, in connection with inflation and the surge in the cost of living across the Channel, and on a scale unseen for forty years.