French Occupy-like movement, born of anti-law-reform rallies, gains national momentum

Sporadic anti-labor law protests in France have grown into something more massive – now people are rallying against capitalism and the government in a movement dubbed Nuit Debout (Rise Up at Night), very similar to the Occupy movement in the US.

French students have for more than a month been rallying against labor law reforms recently proposed by Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri.

The authorities are desperately trying to battle high unemployment and have suggested cutting overtime pay for work beyond 35 hours. Employers would pay only 10 percent of overtime bonus, instead of the current 25 percent, according to proposed reforms.

The March protests were summoned and reported on under the hashtag #LoiTravail (Labor Law). Some of them were partially organized by a Facebook community called ‘Loi travail: non, merci’ (Labor reform: No, thanks).

Since March 31 the shape and scale of the protest grew into something bigger – now not only students have been taking to the streets of France and not only new labor reform has become the subject of discontent.

And the nationwide rally got a new name – Nuit Debout (Rise Up at Night). The movement’s Facebook page has got over 50,000 ‘likes’ in less than 10 days.

The hashtag #OnVautMieuxQueCa (It will be better than this) has been launched on social media together with #NuitDebout. Since March was a month of protests the demonstrators continue to dub even April’s rallies under the hashtag #mars (March). Thus April 3 turned into March 34 (#mars34) and April 9 into March 40 (#mars40).

“We are trying to create a real movement against capitalism and against [French President] Francois Hollande, who talks like a leftist, but his policy is anything but leftist. The people suffer, but those with money do not,” a Nuit Debout activist told RT during one of the demonstrations in Paris.

Another protester added that “what’s important is self-expression and those in power understand that we are not passive.”

French protests compare Nuit debout with world famous Occupy movement, which spread to dozens of cities across the United States and later across the world.

“This is already a movement to let people speak up, to liberate the power of speech, to change and construct alternatives all together,” another protester added, ”We have more of a French character and a French agenda, it all goes back to the idea of Occupy [Wall Street].”

Nuit Debout has also launched a petition which calls on everyone to support the movement.

“These peaceful, open and popular gatherings aim at reinvesting the public space to exchange, discuss and build something together,” the petition which has been signed by over 38,000 people said

It says that a crowd which includes “women and men of all ages, from all social backgrounds” will “participate in the debates and show their support.”

“Our movement is gathered every day and every night …everywhere in FRANCE and we have supporters from all around the world.”

READ MORE: 130 arrests made during anti-labor reform protests in Paris

Though the protests were initially meant to be peaceful, each of them saw violent scuffles with police, tear gas and broken windows.

On Tuesday police detained 130 people in Paris during violent demonstrations. In Rennes, police chased protesters from railways and used tear gas, as demonstrators threw projectiles at security forces and blocked traffic.

In fact, almost all of France, from the western city of Nantes to the southern Toulouse, took to the streets in protest against the government policy.

“Unexpectedly, something new is starting now,” French economist Frederic Lordon told Free Speech Radio News. “The ruling class wants to keep our issues separate, our agenda divided. We say today that we are united around a global and universal agenda!”

The movement may turn into a global phenomenon as protests are now scheduled beyond France. Rallies are planned in Valencia, Spain, and Belgium’s capital, Brussels, from April 9 (aka March 40).