Have a Trip to Paris Planned? What to Know About Ongoing Protests

After a series of pension protests throughout the first half of the year, French citizens again took to the streets after a police officer killed a 17-year-old boy. Here’s the latest information.

French police in riot gear

In France, riot police have been repeatedly called in as tensions escalate.

Photo by Shutterstock

A fresh wave of protests took place throughout France in late June and early July after a police officer killed a 17-year-old delivery driver during a traffic stop. The teenager, named Nahel, was of North African descent and died on Tuesday, June 27, sparking outrage throughout the country.

In the days following the killing, riots broke out in dozens of cities throughout France, with incidents of arson, clashes, and looting, the Associated Press reported. After six nights of unrest and more than 3,400 arrests, the violence appeared to be abating as of this week, AP reported.

In its latest update, security risk and crisis management firm Crisis24 notes that “protests and widespread incidents of violence in reaction to the June 27 police-involved killing of a teenager near Paris have reduced significantly, as of July 5. Authorities reported that Paris and other urban centers were relatively calm overnight July 3–4 and 4–5. Police announced significant reductions of violent incidents, arrests, and injuries, after a peak on June 30.”

According to Crisis24, several political organizations have called for additional marches on July 8. “These demonstrations are likely to attract thousands of attendees. The locations and timings of events are not yet known,” the firm stated. “Tensions will likely remain high nationwide as authorities prepare for possible rioting in the coming days.”

The most recent unrest comes in the wake of numerous rounds of protests that have been taking place in Paris and around France since the start of the year. Previously, demonstrators had been voicing their opposition to French President Emmanuel Macron’s new pension plan, which pushes the retirement age from 62 to 64 and was enacted into law on April 14. Those protests had become more muted recently, having dwindled from gatherings with tens of thousands of participants earlier this spring to much smaller groups of several hundred citizens.

Heaping piles of garbage were removed from the Paris streets at the end of March and in early April when a garbage collectors’ strike that had been in effect since March 6 was finally called off; the strike was in response to their newly proposed retirement age, up to 59 from 57.

A new round of escalations could again disrupt services such as public transportation.

Is it safe to travel to Paris?

The U.S. Embassy in Paris has issued a “security alert,” warning that there are ongoing demonstrations in and around the Paris region and other major French cities “following the June 27 police shooting in the Parisian suburb of Nanterre.”

“These demonstrations, along with spontaneous protests, are expected to continue and may turn violent. U.S. citizens should avoid mass gatherings and areas of significant police activity as they can turn violent and result in clashes,” the U.S. Embassy states.

The embassy also reports that some cities in France are imposing curfews and advises that U.S. citizens avoid demonstrations and areas with increased police activity and monitor the news for updates. (English-language French media outlets include France 24, RFI, and the Local.) The locations of protests are not often known in advance, so it’s important to stay up to date on the latest.

As of July 6, 2023, the U.S. State Department’s France Travel Advisory remains unchanged at a Level 2 (indicating that travelers should continue to exercise increased caution). The U.S. Embassy cites the reasons as terrorism and civil unrest.

What should you do if you’re traveling to France? The U.S. State Department recommends that U.S. citizens in France “avoid areas around protests and demonstrations” as “past demonstrations have turned violent . . . in case of violence or property damage, French authorities may use chemical agents and water cannons to disperse crowds.” It also notes that “strikes can interfere with travel plans.”

For additional assistance, contact the U.S. Embassy in Paris at +33 (1) 43 12 22 22 or CitizenInfo@state.gov.

Are flights to France, transportation services, and other businesses affected by the protests?

Following the latest unrest, the public transit system “remains disrupted, with bus, tram, and rail services in several major cities suspending or limiting operations,” Crisis24 reports. In the Paris region, the transport operator RATP has at time suspended some bus, tram, metro, and RER train lines, so be sure to check the latest before making any travel plans using public transit.

During the pension protests, among those that had been walking out on the job were air traffic controllers, which most recently planned strike actions on May 1 and 2. As a result, the French Civil Aviation Authority asked all airlines to reduce their flight schedules to and from Paris Orly airport and several other French airports on May 1 and May 2.

During the strike, Air France operated all of its long-haul flights, all flights to and from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, and about 70 percent of flights between Paris-Orly and other French airports. Passengers who experienced a flight cancellation due to strike activity could opt for either a future flight credit or a full refund, according to Air France.

During strike actions, “last-minute delays and cancellations cannot be ruled out,” Air France said.

Another round of air traffic controller strikes has not yet been announced or scheduled but shouldn’t be ruled out by travelers.

In addition to worker strikes that can affect services such as public transport systems, the ongoing protests in France can create traffic and transportation congestion and service interruptions in and around major cities, including potential delays in travel between downtown and the main Paris airports, Charles de Gaulle and Orly.

Crisis24 advises travelers to confirm all transportation reservations. “Do not check out of accommodations until onward travel is confirmed,” the firm notes, adding that travelers should allow extra time for travel in major French cities.

As of press time, major museums and attractions in Paris, including the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Eiffel Tower, and Sacré Coeur, remain open to visitors during regular operating hours—although the Louvre and Eiffel Tower have both temporarily closed during protests, so be sure to check daily with regards to opening hours and operations.

Graffiti in Paris depicting the name of a teenager killed by a police officer

Graffiti in Paris in the aftermath of a police killing of a teenager named Nahel.

Lyndsey Matthews

What does it feel like on the ground in Paris right now?

The riots have “definitely died down,” says Lyndsey Matthews, AFAR’s senior commerce editor, who was in Paris at the height of the latest round of uprisings in early July following the police killing. “When I was there, I saw nothing. I noticed a few shops on the Champs-Elysées were boarded up and they apparently cleared the Place de Concorde after I was there Friday evening, but it wasn’t noticeable as a tourist.”

On the average day in Paris, “it feels fine on the ground, honestly,” says Lindsey Tramuta, a freelance writer and frequent AFAR contributor based in Paris. “I would recommend travelers keep following the news about it and if and when there are additional strikes or demonstrations planned, which are announced in advance, that they avoid those areas.”

What are the 2023 Paris protests about?

The latest unrest in Paris and throughout France followed the police shooting of Nahel, a 17-year-old boy of Algerian heritage, in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, an incident that was captured on video, CNN reported. The killing surfaced concerns and outrage about ongoing issues of racism and poverty in France, and the subsequent uprisings prompted President Macron to ban large-scale events in France as tensions remain high.

The riots come in the wake of months of pension protests in Paris and throughout France that represent the most significant demonstrations since the Yellow Vests Movement (named after the fluorescent vests protesters wore during the demonstrations), which began in late 2018 and continued into early 2019. Back then, French people were opposed to President Macron’s fuel tax hike (instituted to reduce emissions) and to the government’s economic policies and the high cost of living.

In 2023, French citizens are once again fed up—this time that Macron’s government implemented Article 49.3 of the Constitution to pass a bill without a vote in the Assemblée Nationale that pushes back the retirement age from 62 to 64 for most workers and requires that citizens have worked for at least 43 years in order to access a full pension. The global average retirement age in 2020 was 64.2 for men and 63.4 for women, according to the most recent data available from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

President Macron explained the reasoning behind the new policy, stating, “People know that yes, on average, you have to work a little longer . . . because otherwise we won’t be able to finance our pensions properly,” the Associated Press reported.

But as Lisa Bryant of NPR’s Morning Edition notes, “The French are fiercely protective of their universal health care and generous pensions. It’s a choice society has made: Work hard, pay high taxes, but also retire at a relatively young age with a high standard of living.”

And now French citizens are rising up again in opposition to police brutality and discrimination against marginalized communities.

This story was originally published on March 21, 2023, and has been updated to include current information.

Michelle Baran is a deputy editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
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