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At 80, Philippe, a resident of Saint-Denis, blocks the road “out of solidarity”

Philippe, 80 years old, demonstrates in solidarity with the working people, in Saint-Denis in Reunion, March 7, 2023.

Filiform octogenarian, small hat on his head, Philippe had no trouble covering ten kilometers, with his flip-flops on his feet, to reach from his home the Gillot roundabout at the eastern entrance to Saint-Denis. There, on the four-lane of the national 2, serving the Roland-Garros airport, a filter dam is installed.

Between 600 and 800 people responded to the inter-union’s call for a “dead island day”. Vehicles drop by. The atmosphere is judged “good kid” by law enforcement. If his 24-year-old son did not come, Philippe came “out of solidarity and to respond to the call for a strike”. This former construction worker retired at the age of 60, without having a full career because he “was not declared all the time”. Like half of Reunionese retirees, he receives a pension of less than 850 euros per month. They are those who receive the lowest pensions in France, according to INSEE.

Philippe modestly confides that he cannot make it to the end of the month, “even with only one meal a day”. “That’s enough for me, I do with it”, he says, refusing to complain. But for him, “Macron has nothing to do with retirees”. “After two terms, he will be quiet”laments the resident of Saint-Denis who had already participated in roadblocks during the strike of yellow vests.

The octogenarian is fiercely opposed to working until the age of 64. He thinks of “night duty nurses”. And to all those who work on construction sites. “Carrying bags of cement is hard. Turning the cement with a shovel is hard too. Especially over 60. The blocking of roads that is paralyzing Reunion today is legitimate, he believes: “We have to make our voice heard in government. The people have the right to speak against the power that persists and uses the 49-3 “.

Does he fear acts of violence such as during demonstrations on the sidelines of yellow vests and roadblocks on the island? “There is no violence if we are not shot at,” Philippe replies firmly.

On the Gillot roundabout, near Roland-Garros airport in Saint-Denis (Reunion), a filter dam is organized across the national road, on March 7, 2023.

Jérôme Talpin (Saint-Denis (Reunion), correspondence)

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