Under-fire Emmanuel Macron filmed singing in the street as riots erupted across France over his TV pensions speech
THIS is the bizarre moment Emmanuel Macron started singing in the street as riots erupted across France over his TV address about pension changes.
The French President, 45, was seen singing a traditional song after attempting to calm fears about his hated pension reforms.
Many internet users suspected the footage was faked using AI or other means when it first emerged, but people close to Mr Macron said it was genuine.
“The president took a moment with his wife (Brigitte Macron) after his speech (on Monday evening). They encountered a group of young people who were singing… so he joined them in a song from the Pyrenees which he knows and loves,” they told AFP.
In the night-time video, Macron can be seen reading from his phone the words of Le Refuge, a song about a lodge in the mountain range on France’s southwestern border with Spain, surrounded by men in their 20s and 30s singing passionately.
The incident might at first have seemed a welcome show of connection with voters for the president, whose reforms including an increase to the pension age have sparked widespread rioting in recent weeks.
But the video was first published on the Facebook page of an organisation called “Projet Canto”.
While the group describes itself as preserving traditional songs in digital form, left-wing newspaper Liberation reported last year that it was founded and run by far-right activists and offered recordings of songs with ties to Nazi Germany in its app.
Macron “could not have known in the moment the backgrounds of every person he was speaking to,” the person in his entourage said.
The group told Liberation last year that “political songs are part of the history of song, that’s why we’ve stored them,” saying it also had “far-left” songs in its catalogue.
Macron previously sang Le Refuge during a trip to the Upper Pyrenees in 2022.
Within minutes of Mr Macron giving his TV address, protests erupted across the country as riot cops battled to restore order.
At least 11 people were arrested, according to local media reports.
A crowd marched through the Republic area of Paris chanting “Macron resign!” and “Macron wont listen to us? We wont listen to him!” while lighting fires and smashing windows.
There were similar scenes around Hotel de Ville – Paris city hall – where another illegal protest formed.
Barricades were set up in Place de l’Opera in the 9th arrondissement of the city.
Cops reportedly used tear gas to disperse the crowd on Rue Mouffetard.
Elsewhere in the capital, some banged casserole dishes – a traditional means of showing anger in France, while others threw projectiles at the police.
Cops in Marseille, Toulouse, Rennes and Nantes reported similar disturbances and hundreds of people took to the streets.
In Lyon, the front of a police station was set on fire, reports say.
Around 200 protesters gathered in the city and set fire to bins as well as smashing up bus shelters.
Cops fired tear gas in an attempt to break up the violence.
Tear gas was also used by police in Strasbourg after a few hundred people set up barricades in the streets.
In many other places across France, the protests remained peaceful, with people chanting and dancing in front of city halls to the sound of pots and pans used as drums.
Mr Macron admitted in his address that pushing France’s retirement age up from 62 to 64 “had not been accepted” – but said there would be no U-turns following weeks of strikes and rioting.
The embattled President appeared on a pre-recorded nationwide TV broadcast on Monday evening, three days after his controversial pension plans passed into law without a parliamentary vote.
“Is this reform accepted?” asked Mr Macron during the 12-minute address. “Obviously not. In spite of months of negotiations, no consensus was reached, and I regret that.”
He said he “heard the anger” of the French, adding “no-one can remain deaf to it.”
President Macron said there was “anger at jobs which, for many French people, no longer allow them to live well, in the face of rising prices for fuel, shopping, canteens.
“There is anger because some have the feeling of doing their part, but without being rewarded for their efforts, neither in wages, nor in effective public services.”
But insisting there would be no change in his policies, Mr Macron said the reform was “necessary to guarantee pensions and produce more wealth for our nation”, and for France to stay in line with European neighbours.
Many reject the changes as unfair, arguing the government could have raised taxes on the wealthy or employers instead.
Britain’s retirement age is 66, in Germany and Italy it is 67, and in Spain it is 65.
Last Thursday, a mob stormed the Paris headquarters of luxury group LVMH, which is run by Bernard Arnault, the richest man in the world.
There was also widespread rioting around Bastille Square – scene of the original 1789 Revolution – and in other cities and towns across the country.
Opposition politicians and trade unions spent the weekend attacking what they see as the arrogant imposition of a two-year rise in the retirement age to 64 in the face of its rejection by an estimated 70 per cent of the population in opinion polls.
Marine Le Pen, of the far-Right National Rally, called for either a referendum on the reform, the dissolution of parliament, or Macron’s resignation.
Élisabeth Borne, the Prime Minister, had been “totally destroyed” and the government had lost all credibility, said Ms Le Pen.
And Olivier Faure, leader of the Socialist party, said the opposition was “not ready to move on to other things”.
As sporadic protests took place around the country today, the trade unions urged the public to turn May Day workers’ parades on May 1 into giant protests against the pension reform.
“It will be a tidal wave of historic proportions,” said Sophie Binet, leader of the CGT union.
And Laurent Berger, head of the CFDT, the biggest union, said: “Let’s bring down the house on May 1.”
Mr Macron was recently humiliated after an official state visit by King Charles and Queen Camilla had to be cancelled after riots swept the country.