Tear gas, up to 40 arrests at anti-labor reform rally in Paris (PHOTOS, VIDEO)
The demonstration in the French capital attracted at least 55,000 participants, according to the organizers. Police, however, put the number of demonstrators at between 14,000 and 15,000.
The uproar was reported near Boulevard de l’Hôpital, which prompted police to cordon off the area.
More than 2,500 officers were deployed, according to police, who later reported that 39 protesters had been arrested.
Battles broke out when at least 200 hooded and masked men started throwing stones at police, who in turn deployed tear gas against the protesters.
Similar demonstrations have taken place across the country, with protests also turning violent in the southern city of Toulouse, where clashes broke out resulting in injuries.
At least 2,000 people gathered in Nantes, Ouest France newspaper reported. Although the demonstration began peacefully, with protesters marching and chanting, “Withdraw labor bill!” violence broke out after police circled the protesters, some of whom began fighting with the officers.
In the meantime, the French Senate, the upper house of parliament, on Tuesday adopted the draft labor law by 185 votes against 156. The bill abolishes 35 hours as the standard working time per week.
In May, the government rushed the bill through the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament. The bill will return to the National Assembly in July.
France has been rocked by anti-labor reform protests for four months. The rallies, which kicked off in March under the slogans LoiTravail (Labor Law) and NuitDebout (Rise Up At Night), have repeatedly turned violent, frequently ending in arrests and injuries.
The reform proposed by Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri would enable employers to pay only 10 percent extra for overtime, rather than the currently mandated 25 percent.
The bill technically maintains the 35-hour work week, but says that in case of “exceptional circumstances,” employees can be asked to work up to 60 hours a week.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls is going to meet leaders of the CGT and Force Ouvriere (FO) labor unions to discuss the controversial deal, but the unions are not very optimistic about the negotiations.
“If the government is not going to give ground, it will be a meeting for nothing,” said FO head Jean-Claude Mailly, while CGT chief Philippe Martinez added: “I hope we’re not just being invited for coffee.”
The police have even gotten into the act, taking to the streets to protest the violence directed at them from the protesters. They even decided to stage their own anti-brutality rally during the massive anti-labor reform protests in May. Law enforcement officers say they have been unfairly treated by the public for simply trying to do their jobs. However, the officers’ protest didn’t seem to have much effect on the anti-labor reform demonstrators, who torched a police car during the rally.
French authorities have repeatedly called for a ban on demonstrations against labor reform, or at least a requirement that they be “static.”