The French government and the French public have locked horns in recent weeks, resulting in violent protests around the country.
Here’s what you need to know.
What is happening in France?
Police have resorted to using tear gas and stun grenades to push back against anarchists in Paris and across France, according to Reuters news agency, as hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered to protest.
Friday March 24 marks the tenth day of nationwide demonstrations.
Most of them have been peaceful, but groups of ‘Black Bloc’ anarchists caused riots in the streets by smashing shop windows and ransacking a McDonald’s. They clashed with the riot police.
Meanwhile, the nation’s travel industry has been upended, with train and air travel disrupted, while teachers (among other working professionals) have walked out.
Sanitation workers have pushed back too, meaning tonnes of rubbish piled up in Paris last week, and bins have been set alight by other demonstrators.
Electricity output was cut as unions pressured the government, protesters blocked oil depots and liquified natural gas terminals, triggering oil shortages.
According to the interior minister Gerald Darmanin, who condemned the “thugs, often from the far-left”, 149 police officers were injured and 172 have been arrested nationwide. A woman also lost her thumb in the Normandy town of Rouen.
The government claims more than a million people protested across the country, with 119,000 solely in the capital. That’s a record since the protests began in January, as tensions have ramped up over the last week.
So what triggered the protests?
Then last week, Macron forced the bill through without putting it to a parliamentary vote first using an emergency presidential decree, before it got to a National Assembly vote in the afternoon.
Reuters also noted that polls show more than 70% of the public oppose the move.
What does this mean?
Le Pen also called for a no-confidence vote in the Macron administration.
But Macron is refusing to back down.
He spoke out about the pension reforms this week, saying on Wednesday that the law would come in by the end of the year, and compared the protests to the storming of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
These riots are the most serious challenge to Macron’s time in office since the Yellow Vest revolts which began in 2018.
Inflation remains high in France though, meaning workers cannot afford to stay away from their jobs for long.
The government may therefore be hoping that protesters will be forced to return to work soon, even as trade unions have called for more demonstrations.
So, why did Charles cancel his visit?
It was going to be the monarch’s first state visit since taking to the throne, but the British and French governments decided together to cancel it after nationwide strikes.
The Elysee Palace said the three-day-trip, which was meant to start on Sunday, would be rescheduled as soon as possible.
It had been in the diary for months in an effort to use the crown’s soft diplomacy to strengthen ties between the UK and its European allies.
The trip’s details were already under review before the cancellation so as to reduce Charles’ interactions with the public.
Tradenion members responsible for providing flags, red carpets and furniture for public buildings had already announced they would not prepare a Sunday reception for the King.
Charles was also set to travel to Bordeaux from Paris on Tuesday March 28, by train, but the main entrance to the city’s town hall was set on fire this week.