PARIS — French trains rolled to a halt Wednesday evening, kicking off massive nationwide strikes and protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to overhaul the retirement system, seen as an untouchable symbol of the French way of life.
Tourists canceled travel plans and Paris deployed thousands of police to cope with what was expected to be a challenging day Thursday.
The walkout was expected to hit transportation the hardest, as flights, trains, and buses canceled service and most of the Paris subway system came to a halt. Workers at the national railway SNCF stopped work Wednesday evening, while other services planned to shut down Thursday morning for an indefinite period.
In Paris, where unions were planning a big march Thursday, police warned of possible violence and damages and ordered all businesses, cafes, and restaurants along the protest route to close. Authorities also issued a ban on protests on the Champs-Elysees and around the presidential palace, Parliament, and Notre Dame Cathedral.
Paris Police Chief Didier Lallement said 6,000 police officers would fan out around the city, notably amid fears that protest groups and extremist troublemakers could join the action.
The Eiffel Tower warned tourists to delay a visit because the strike would disrupt access on Thursday.