The Latest: French protesters set fires amid strikes

International

A truck is set ablaze during a demonstration in Paris, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. The Eiffel Tower shut down Thursday, France’s vaunted high-speed trains stood still and teachers walked off the job as unions launched nationwide strikes and protests over the government’s plan to overhaul the retirement system. (AP Photo/Alexander Turnbull)

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PARIS (AP) — The Latest on strikes in France (all times local):

3:45 p.m.

Small groups of protesters are hurling flares, smashing store windows and setting fires in eastern Paris amid mass strikes over the government’s retirement reform.

Associated Press reporters saw demonstrators destroy a bus shelter as masked activists ran and threw projectiles on the sidelines of a big, otherwise peaceful protest Thursday.

A stoplight blazed after a garbage can below was set alight. Protesters also set fire to a construction trailer and started other blazes around the neighborhood around the Gare de l’Est train station where the march began.

Paris deployed 6,000 police for the march but police held back as the violence began. Firefighters came to try to extinguish the fires.

___

8:10 a.m.

Most French trains are at a standstill, schools are closed and the Eiffel Tower is warning visitors to stay away as unions hold nationwide strikes and protests over the government’s retirement reform.

Paris deployed 6,000 police for what’s expected to be a major demonstration Thursday through the capital, as subway stations across the city were shuttered, multiplying traffic jams.

Public sector workers fear President Emmanuel Macron’s reform will force them to work longer and shrink their pensions. The transportation minister said he will meet with unions Thursday to try to defuse tensions.

The SNCF railway said about nine out of 10 high-speed trains are canceled, as are about 30 percent of Air France’s domestic flights.

Paris monuments also warned of strike disruptions, and many tourists canceled plans to visit.

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