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The best placards seen during the French pension protests
The best placards seen during the French pension protests Copyright @Clemygd - Twitter
Copyright @Clemygd - Twitter
Copyright @Clemygd - Twitter

Fourteenth day of French pension reform strikes: The best placards from the protests

By David Mouriquand
Published on Updated
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Today is the 14th day of national mobilisation against the French pension reform imposed by the government. Here are the protestors merging militancy with humour...


Today is the 14th day of national mobilisation against the French pension reform imposed by the government, which sees the retirement age bumped up to 64 from 62 years old.

France's labour unions are staging another day of strikes to try to derail President Emmanuel Macron's pensions overhaul. They insist that the fight to thwart the changes is not over even after it became law. 

Anyone who has ever attended a French demonstration knows that you’ll come across a lot of people shouting, plenty eating, a few dancing and above all, some ingenious protestors who merge militancy with humour.

Word games, puns, caricatures… Some are insightful, others full-blown artistic creations, and many show that protestors have managed to carve out a space for creativity and laughter, in order to smile in the face of what some perceive as a democratic injustice.

Here are some of our favourite placards seen in the recent marches.

NB:Some puns have no direct English equivalents, so expect the translations and explanations to dent the humour. After all, jokes rarely get funnier once they’re explained…

© Sylvie Adam
Clowning about...© Sylvie Adam

“Take us for clowns, expect a circus.” Direct and to the point.

© Marius Renaudet - Twitter
Babs is on it© Marius Renaudet - Twitter

“Grannies want their dough." You go, babs! 

© Marius Renaudet - Twitter
Uh, language!© Marius Renaudet - Twitter

“Why not 69 years old, since we’re getting f*cked.” Well, quite.

@emmaftcarena - Twitter
Harking back to history@emmaftcarena - Twitter

“Give us 64 and we’ll give you May 68.” This pun only works because of the similarities between the verb “mettre” (“mets”) – to give / put – and the month of May (“mai”). And for those who aren’t aware of the French obsession with May '68, the protests of 1968 have entered the national “anything is possible” mythology in the form of a simplified narrative: the student-led uprising had a transformative socio-cultural and political legacy. For all its impact, it was chaos and has been crystalized into a popular uprising reference that many desperately yearn to recreate in a warped form of nostalgia.

@FredericSawicki - Twitter
Devil horns@FredericSawicki - Twitter

Marcon as the devil and signs calling out the 49:3 – which allows the government to pass a bill without a vote – as undemocratic.

@objectifocean - Twitter
Being truthful (?)@objectifocean - Twitter

“Do you think we’re happy to be demonstrating?” Fair point, but considering the French proclivity for a good march, debatable.

Careful, Elisabeth© UGO AMEZSIPA

“Careful Elisabeth! You’re bordering on a “borne-out." A cheeky reference to Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, whose surname sounds like “burn.” So, this is just sound medical advice, at the end of the day... 

MetatextualMourad ALLILI - SIPA

“My sign is rubbish, my pension will be too.” Very meta. Love it. 

@Clemygd - Twitter
Music references@Clemygd - Twitter

A deep cut this one, especially for those who don’t know the artist Manu Chao, the French-Spanish singer behind hits like ‘Clandestino’ and ‘Me Gustas Tu’. This ingenious protestor has recreated the font of Manu Chao’s album lettering, and let the viewer do the rest of the work by equating "Manu" less with the singer but with the French diminutive for Emmanuel (Macron). And then bidding him farewell. Genius. 

Looking to the future© Alain ROBERT SIPA

“Nursing homes are the new co-working spaces." Nice, but it’s 64, not 94… Come on, now.

@AnnaBzh22 - Twitter
Bold accusation@AnnaBzh22 - Twitter

“Cocaine deliveries to the Elysée must be blocked. The kid needs to come back down to earth.” Bold accusation that the President’s residence is getting some special deliveries and that the head of state is tripping… As for the "kid" part, many frequently comment on Macron’s young age, since he became France’s youngest president at the age of 39. (He’s currently 45.)

Oh hi Tanya!Twitter

A cheeky White Lotus reference there… Always appreciated.

@TrouDsodom - Twitter
The PM with a dunce's cap@TrouDsodom - Twitter

An uncanny effigy to PM Elisabeth Borne... At this point, your art degree just pays for itself.

@lndrnmarie - Twitter
More medical advice@lndrnmarie - Twitter

"I demand a psychiatric evaluation for Emmanuel Macron." Look at the size of that thing. A for effort.

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