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21 Sep, 2017 20:49

‘Macron’s law is for the bosses’: Unions lead protests against France labor code reform (VIDEO)

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets across France to protest a labor code overhaul that is set to be approved by the government of Emmanuel Macron on Friday, but lower numbers compared to previous demonstrations suggested that resistance is waning.

“Withdraw all decrees” and “The law is for the bosses” were among the placards seen across France’s leading cities, in demonstrations organized by the influential left-wing CGT workers’ union, and France’s student union among others.

Police and organizer attendance estimates varied widely. Authorities said that 16,000 people came out in Paris, while unions put the number at 55,000; in Marseille police counted only 4,500 demonstrators versus 50,000 claimed by the unions.

In either case, attendance was a notch below similar marches last week, and several times smaller than the previous mass labor protests against the government of Francois Hollande last summer.

But left-wing politician Jean-Luc Melenchon, who came fourth in this year’s presidential race, said , "This is only the beginning," as he joined one of the marches in Paris.

READ MORE: Naked guitarist seizes moment of fame amid violence of Paris labor protest (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

“[President Emmanuel] Macron wants to rally influential and rich people behind him, and treat the rest of us to be a confused mass of savages,” he told reporters.

Most marches passed off peacefully, with relatively isolated clashes between a minority of radical protesters and police, which nonetheless prompted the use of tear gas in several cities, inclusing Paris and Nantes. In the eastern city of Grenoble, a group called the Anarchist Revolt Against Exiled Gendarmes, set fire to a police car park, destroying 50 vehicles.

A union truck protest, including the blocking of petrol stations, is scheduled for Monday, and a strike by civil servants on October 10.

The measures are unlikely to deter Macron, who has a large parliamentary majority, but has decided to push through his reforms through presidential order to avoid months of debate and further street protests.

“The people made their choice, made their decisions, it’s normal that they’re applied,” Macron said during his speech to the UN this week. "Democracy doesn’t occur ‘in the street.’”

Friday’s relatively modest proposals, which have been outlined only in principle, will make labor relations less formal in small companies, and reduce the role of unions in negotiations. Many of Macron’s opponents believe that the proposals are a harbinger of a more radical overhaul of the economy, which has been plagued by high unemployment, in the coming months.