Thousands protest anti-labor reform in Paris as Hollande vows ‘to go all the way’ (VIDEOS, PHOTOS)

Thousands have flocked to the streets of Paris to decry a highly-unpopular labor law. Two thousand police officers were deployed to provide security for the march restricted to a cordoned area of only 1.6km.

The heavy police presence was deployed to provide security for the event, which had initially been banned by the Paris Prefecture on Thursday morning. 

After negotiations with labor unions, however, the Ministry of Interior agreed to allow the protest to take place, but tightened its intended route to some 1.6km, setting off from the historic Place de la Bastille in the direction of the Arsenal basin and back.

The entire route was heavily cordoned, with all participants having to go through checkpoints and searches if they wanted to join the rally. Helmets and scarves were prohibited, as well as anything that could be used as a projectile.

Some 19,000 people took part in the protest according to the French prefecture, while workers’ unions say 60,000 were present. 

The prefecture says Thursday’s manifestation was mostly peaceful, albeit with some minor scuffles. Up to 90 people were arrested ahead of the march due to security concerns.

It was a preventative measure, as we discovered objects which could be used for violence, like rocks and bottles,” the prefecture’s representatives told journalists. 

Some 100 people were also barred from taking part in the event in an attempt to avoid the violence that emerged at a similar manifestation on June 14. At least 40 people, including 29 police officers, were injured as protesters clashed with police, while a group of black-clad ‘casseurs’ - the French name given to the radical rioters - allegedly vandalized a children's hospital and several commercial buildings.

Anti-labor-law demonstrations were also held on Thursday in other French cities, including Marseille, Toulouse and Bordeaux. Along with the march in Paris, these demonstrations were peaceful, while in Rennes the rally turned out to be more heated. Some 300 masked youths broke away from the main procession of 3,000 people and vandalized the buildings of several banks and estate agents’ offices, painting tags on their walls and smashing windows.

Anti-labor-law demonstrations were also held on Thursday in other French cities, including Marseille, Toulouse and Bordeaux. Along with the march in Paris, these demonstrations were peaceful, while in Rennes the rally turned out to be more heated. Some 300 masked youths broke away from the main procession of 3,000 people and vandalized the buildings of several banks and estate agents’ offices, painting tags on their walls and smashing windows.

The protests, launched in March this year and held under the popular slogans LoiTravail (Labor Law) and NuitDebout (Rise Up At Night), decry the highly unpopular labor law. The law would force employers to pay workers only 10 percent of an overtime bonus, instead of the current 25 percent. The bill technically maintains the 35-hour working week, but says that in case of “exceptional circumstances,” employees can be asked to work up to 60 hours a week.

We are not going to back down and we demand that the government calls off the controversial reform,” the head of the General Confederation [CGT] union, Philippe Martinez, said following Thursday’s marches. But while unions promise to carry on with the movement opposing the legislation, President Hollande on Thursday has refused to halt the proposed reform, vowing to “go all the way” to enact it.

On this draft law, we will go all the way because it is essential not only to allow businesses to be able to hire more, but to step up training that will lead to more jobs,” he told journalists on Thursday morning.

French authorities have repeatedly called to ban the demonstrations against labor reforms or at least to make them more “static,” especially as France is currently facing the need to uphold tightened security for the Euro 2016 football championship. 

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve earlier this week noted that the French government is seeking to ensure that protests do not pose the risk of violence, adding that given the circumstances “the police are tired and need some recovery time.