Protesters gather at Paris theater to confront Macron over pension reform

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[January 18, 2020]  PARIS (Reuters) - Protesters opposed to the French government's proposed changes to the pension system tried to force their way into a theater in Paris where President Emmanuel Macron attended a show with his wife.

A crowd gathered outside the Theater Des Bouffes du Nord on Friday evening after the couple had arrived to watch a performance of La Mouche (The Fly). Videos on social media showed protesters chanting "Macron resign" and at one stage trying to enter the venue near the Gare du Nord train terminus in northern Paris.

"There was an attempted invasion of the theater but the presidential couple was able to remain until the end of the play and left the venue by car around 10pm with a police escort," a source close to Macron said.

The president's presence at the theater was flagged on Twitter by journalist and political activist Taha Bouhafs, who was inside the venue. He was later detained by police, according to a judicial source.

Macron was previously targeted by "yellow vest" protesters in their year-long movement against the cost of living, accused of being arrogant and out of touch.

The president has mostly stayed on the sidelines during protests against his planned overhaul of France's retirement system, leaving Edouard Philippe, his prime minister, to face unions during a month and a half of transport stoppages.

But with participation in rail strikes waning, opponents of the pension reform have staged more direct action.

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French President Emmanuel Macron delivers his new year wishes to the military during a ceremony at the Orleans Bricy Air Base 123 in Boulay-les-Barres near Orleans, France, January 16, 2020. Julien De Rosa/Pool via REUTERS

The headquarters of the moderate CFDT union, which the government has been trying to win over, was invaded on Friday by activists from other unions, while the Louvre Museum was blocked by striking staff.

Macron, who included changes to the pension system in his 2017 election campaign, wants to replace dozens of existing schemes with a universal, points-based system.

(Reporting by Gus Trompiz, Jean-Stephane Brosse and Marine Pennetier; editing by Mike Harrison)

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