PARIS - 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."
Arnaud 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
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
"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
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