Teargas, pepper spray v projectiles: Youth protests engulf French capital (VIDEO, PHOTOS)
Place de la Bataille near Stalingrad Metro station has seen youngsters clashing with police for several hours, RT’s Harry Fear reports from the scene. He says several hundred high school students charged at the police line, but were driven away by officers.
Riot police in heavy gear have been deployed to the streets en masse to prevent further violence and calm the crowds. They have also blocked several streets, as seen in pictures posted on social media.
Kicking off as an opposition to a new labor reform, the general anger has converted into something of a full-scale uprising, with protests and clashes emerging daily for the past fortnight. The protesters’ anger has been leveled against authorities in general, but many say they now feel betrayed by President Francois Hollande in particular over his failure to tackle existing problems and thus robbing them of their future.
It all began on March 31 after mobs of some 400,000 students marched in several cities across the country in a movement dubbed ‘Nuit Debout’ (Rise Up at Night), as reported by Reuters. They were joined by labor and trade union members.
The protests have been happening daily ever since, with union members demanding a change in the proposed labor law, while youngsters call for nothing less than the invention of an entirely new political and economic order.
Actions have been taking place all over France: in Marseille, Rouen, Rennes and other cities. They are partially organized by a Facebook community called "Loi travail: non, merci" (Labor reform: No, thanks).
Arguing that the reforms concern all French citizens, the group has started a petition that has so far been signed by over 1.2 million people.
According to the new reform, proposed by Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri earlier in March, employers reduce unemployment through a number of measures, including reducing payment for working beyond 35 hours. Employers would pay only 10 percent of overtime bonus, instead of the current 25 percent.
The movement organizers claim government wants to change current protective labor laws to make it easier and less costly for employers to lay off workers. The government argues that the new law will open up jobs for younger people. Still, whatever the intended benefits, protesters see any attempt to weaken worker protections as a threat.
With presidential elections just a year away, Nuit Debout is not good news for Hollande’s Socialist party. His personal approval rating, which rose after each of last year’s terrorist attacks, fell last month to just 17 percent. According to an Odoxa survey for Le Parisien, 71 percent of French people oppose the reform. Still, last week Hollande has said he will not seek re-election if he cannot deliver on the new reform.