Thousands of disabled people demonstrated in the streets of Paris to demand higher benefit payments, while separate protests unrolled across France against proposed pension reforms.
Protestors in wheelchairs and on crutches, wearing red shirts, were joined in Paris by HIV positive patients, blind demonstrators with guide dogs and others, behind a banner urgently demanding "income to survive."
AdvertisementArnaud de Broca, president of Fnath, one of around 100 campaign groups in the demonstration, said they wanted an increase in the disability allowance -- currently 628 euros (990 dollars) per month for a disabled adult.
"You can't live on that," he said.
"I had to call my bank to increase my overdraft to 700 euros" in order to cope, said one participant, 57-year-old Edmond Thomas, who has been paraplegic for 35 years after a car accident.
Organisers said nearly 30,000 people took part in the Paris protest: police put the figure at 16,500. A delegation of demonstrators delivered a petition to the presidential Elysee Palace.
In the capital and elsewhere meanwhile, thousands of people, according to police and organisers, protested against government plans to raise to 41 the number of years a person must work to qualify for a full state pension.
Organisers said Saturday's marches, called by three leading unions, aimed to draw attention to the issue ahead of April, when the government has said it will make initial proposals on the plan. They also threatened further protests.
"This is just to get things up and running, a necessary move so that the debate becomes public in France," said Bernard Thibault, head of the major union CGT.
Police said 4,600 people joined the pensions protest in Paris, while organisers put the figure at up to 15,000. Hundreds joined linked protests in cities across France, from Lille to Marseille, police and organisers said.