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France prepares for massive transport strike Thursday

FILE - In this Tuesday, April 3, 2018 file photo a passenger crosses railroad tracks at rush hour at Gare de Lyon train station, in Paris. France's rail operator SNCF and the Paris Metro say nationwide strikes will wipe out most services Thursday, impacting millions. The SNCF expects that 9 out of 10 high-speed trains won't run and that half of the Eurostar services linking France and Britain will be canceled, too. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)

French workers are gearing up for a strike on Thursday

Police are warning of possible violence and damages in Paris if the strike goes forward

PARIS — Tourists are canceling travel plans and Paris is deploying thousands of police as France girds for massive, nationwide strikes and protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to overhaul the retirement system.

Transport will be hardest hit by the walkout, with flights, trains and buses canceled and most of the Paris subway system coming to a halt. Workers at the national railway SNCF plan to stop work Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. (1800 GMT), while other services shut down starting Thursday morning, for an indefinite period.

In Paris, where workers’ unions are planning a big march Thursday, police are warning of possible violence and damages and ordered all businesses, cafes and restaurants along the route to close. Authorities also issued a ban on protests on the Champs-Elysees avenue, around the presidential palace, parliament and Notre Dame Cathedral.

Paris police chief Didier Lallement said that 6,000 police officers will fan out around the city, notably amid fears that yellow vest protest groups and extremist troublemakers could join the action.

The Eiffel Tower is warning tourists to delay a visit to the iconic monument because the strike will disrupt access on Thursday.

The Louvre Museum says its opening Thursday may be delayed, and some viewing rooms may be closed.

Hotels across Paris reported receiving numerous cancellations ahead of the strike, as wary tourists eyed closing transport routes and decided to skip their Paris vacations.

The SNCF railway company expects nine out of 10 high-speed trains to be canceled. International train lines will be affected, too. No tickets are available on Eurostar trains across the English Channel until Tuesday.

Air France said about 30% of its domestic flights will be cancelled.

The government said 55% of teachers will be on strike Thursday, and hospitals will also be affected.

Workers are angry at Macron’s plan to streamline the country’s 42 state pension systems, fearing they will have to work longer and earn less upon retirement.

For Amina Hamade, 17, who lives in the Paris suburb of Poissy and takes the train to her high school in the nearby town of Les Mureaux, the strike provides a good excuse to skip school Thursday and Friday.

Tarik Slimani, a butcher in Les Mureaux, sees the strike as a political stunt that will hurt the economy. Everyone who relies on public transport to get to work will pay the price, he said.