French protesters start fire at one of Macron’s favorite restaurants in Paris

Protesters started a fire at one of French President Emmanuel Macron’s favorite restaurants in Paris on Thursday during clashes with riot police at the upmarket left-bank brasserie.

Staff at La Rotonde in the Montparnasse area of the city were forced to put out flames on the awning of the restaurant where Macron held a victory party during his successful 2017 election bid.

An AFP journalist saw a group of men dressed in black fire fireworks and throw stones in the direction of the eatery.

The fire was caused by a flare thrown on to the fabric awning, with firefighters needed to extinguish it.

Ranks of riot police formed to protect the business on the 11th day of national protests and strikes against Macron’s widely unpopular bid to increase the retirement age to 64 from 62.

The red velour sofas and soft lighting of La Rotonde, a Belle Epoque hang-out once frequented by Picasso, have long been a favorite of Macron and his wife Brigitte.

The former investment banker held strategy meetings there as he prepared his bid for the presidency in 2017 and has been known to eat there with his wife since winning power.

In a decision criticized as elitist by his opponents at the time, Macron used La Rotonde to host staff and political allies for a party after he topped the first round of voting in 2017.

The restaurant has been targeted before because of its association with the 45-year-old president.

In 2020, during violent anti-government protests by so-called “Yellow Vests,” a suspected arson attack left its entrance damaged.

“When there are marches and so on, you hear people saying ‘Death to the Rotonde, Death to Macron’,” Gerard Tafanel, who owns the bistro with his brother Serge, told AFP at the time.

“It happens all the time: anonymous phone calls, people who enter in the middle of the day saying ‘Death to Macron’.”

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