Clashes, tear gas in Paris as anti-labor reform protest turns violent

People took to the streets across France on Thursday to once again protest the government’s controversial labor reforms. Violent clashes with police were reported in Paris and Nantes where tear gas was used.

Around 170,000 people participated in protests across the country on Thursday, CGT trade union representatives told AFP.

However, according to estimates by the French authorities, 78,000 people took part in the walk-out.

Fifteen gendarmes and police officers were injured, with two of them hospitalized, the French Interior Ministry said. Some 62 people were arrested across the country, it added. 

There was a heavy presence of riot police in the French capital where thousands marched against the legislation, which allows employers to hire and fire people more easily, as well as negotiate working times with their staff directly.

Local journalist Dmitry Petrunin told RT that, according to his estimations, “no less than 30,000 people,” rallied in Paris on Thursday.

According to police, between 12,500 and 13,500 marched in the French capital. 

Clashes broke out in Paris as groups of young protesters, who had their faces covered, provoked the police by throwing stones and flares. Law enforcement replied with batons and pepper spray. 

Five police officers and at least one protestor were injured in clashes in Paris, French broadcaster iTELE reported, adding that 10 people were detained.

The violence in the French capital “started out as a small scuffle in the middle of the protest, which quite quickly escalated. Riot police started firing tear gas. It then subsided, but since then we had at least ten clashes between the police and protestors,” Petrunin said. 

Earlier, security officials blocked all entrances and exits at the central Paris-Gare de Lyon train station to avoid an overflow of protestors.

The rally in Paris was the largest in the country, but there were also major gatherings in Lyon and Marseille on Thursday, Petrunin said.

Tensions were also high in the western port of Nantes, where police reportedly used tear gas on the crowd.

Videos posted online also show demonstrators being sprayed with several water hoses by security officials.

Violence also broke out at rallies in Toulouse, Rennes, Grenoble and Montpellier, the Interior Ministry said.

Demonstrators also marched through the eastern city of Belfort where 400 are at risk of losing their jobs after train-maker Alstom announced it would close the local plant due to lack of orders.

French airport workers also joined the walkout in protest over labor reform as the country’s civil aviation authority (DGAC) asked airlines operating out of Paris to cancel 15 percent of their flights on Thursday.

According to the DGAC, the disruptions are expected to be felt all across France and elsewhere in Europe. EasyJet and Ryanair carriers have already announced the cancellation of around 140 flights.

Protests against the labor reform continue despite the legislation having already been adopted by Parliament this summer.

The number of demonstrators, however, has been decreasing since it peaked at hundreds of thousands back in March. The previous walkout against the labor reform in July saw just around 35,000 participants.

However, the French regional trade unions CGT, FO, FSU, Solidaires, UNEF, UNL and FIDL, which called for the protest, expressed their eagerness to fight the government.

“We will show them that, law or no law, we will always stand against them,” Francois Roche, a member of the CGT union demonstrating in Marseille, told AFP.