Thousands protested in Paris, across the Seine river from parliament

Paris (AFP) - Thousands of people massed in France’s capital on Thursday to protest President Emmanuel Macron’s government imposing a controversial pensions overhaul without a parliament vote.

“He who sows misery reaps anger,” read one sign at the Paris rally at the Place de la Concorde across the Seine river from parliament.

Macron has been determined to implement the deeply unpopular reform, which includes raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.

It has sparked two months of heated debate in parliament, as well as repeated nationwide strikes and protests.

But Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne on Thursday used a special constitutional power to ram the changes through the lower-house National Assembly without giving lawmakers a chance to vote.

Polls show two-thirds of French people oppose the reform, which includes raising the retirement age from 62 to 64

“I’m outraged by what’s happening. I feel like I’m being cheated as a citizen,” said schoolteacher Laure Cartelier among the crowd at Place de la Concorde.

“In a democracy, it should have happened through a vote,” the 55-year-old said.

A police source put the number of protesters in Paris at “several thousand”.

- ‘Manu, need my hearing aid?’ -

Elsewhere in France, others also gathered to vent their frustration.

In the southeastern city of Grenoble, CGT union representative Karen Mantovani was among several hundred people out in the street.

“I thought they’d respect democracy a little,” she said.

'Hey Manu, need my hearing aid?' read one placard in the northern city of Lille

“But apparently, I’m very naive.”

She said she was disappointed by the low turnout.

Polls in recent weeks have shown that around two-thirds of French people opposed the pension reform, but around the same number believed it would pass anyway.

At another protest in the northern city of Lille, one of the demonstrators wondered how the president had failed to register public opposition to his plan.

“Hey Manu, need my hearing aid?” read his placard, using a highly informal short form of Macron’s first name.

In the southeastern city of Lyon, some 400 people gathered in front of administrative offices, calling for the president to resign.