Paris labor protests took a turn for the violent, as 26 were injured in an open clash between protestors and the riot police force yesterday. Twenty of the injured were part of the police, while six were protesting civilians. As thousands marched in the French capital to protest revisions in existing labor laws, street protests gave way to demonstrations that saw youth and labor union members throw projectiles at the police and the police force retaliate with tear gas and water cannons.
As taxi-drivers and rail workers stopped work to strike in protest against President Francois Hollande’s plans to revise labor laws, nearly 700 people reached Paris to walk together — a move that shut down some of the city’s main thoroughfare and even the Eiffel Tower. Mobilised by the hardline French wing of the General Confederation of Labour (Confédération générale du travail, or CGT), the Paris march resonated in a countrywide upheaval of a three-month struggle by labor workers and the youth, to ensure fairness in labor legislation. Smaller marches in other French cities and towns resulted in around 13,00,000 protestors taking to the streets, as estimated by the CGT.
While in their official website, the CGT condemned the violence that the Paris protests resulted in, the protests come at a time when French security resources are already stretched due to an ongoing football tournament, the Euro 2016. The Paris Police Prefecture, or Préfecture de Police, tweeted of the arrest of 13 individuals who were apparently “masked.”
The numbers have since gone up, and about 58 are reported to have been arrested by the French police. The clashes, most of which took place near the Port Royal railway station in Paris, saw sloganeering protestors throw firecrackers, stones, and miscellaneous objects at the armed police. The latter used six vehicular water cannons to dispel the mostly young bands of protestors.
The protests started in late March over the realisation that the Hollande government proposed to rewrite labor laws, thereby making it easier for employers to hire and fire employees. The government — already the object of frustration by the youth in France — alleges that this measure will result in creating a dent in France’s 10 percent unemployment rate. Less protection for existing workers, however, has resulted in inciting the ire of thousands and a resultant rise in the relevance of the French Left.
Hollande had earlier announced his fears over the Euro getting disrupted over strikes. As reported by Reuters, he spoke on France Inter radio about the impact his country’s untranslatable picket-line violence would have in the eyes of Europe and the world.
“No one would understand it if trains and planes – I’m thinking of the Air France pilots’ dispute – were to prevent fans travelling around easily, even if the competition itself has nothing to fear.”
The Air France pilots are supposed to go on strike in Paris, to protest a separate issue regarding pay cuts, since Tuesday, thus compounding France’s travel woes by forcing the cancellation of one-fifth of the country’s domestic and international flights.
The CGT has announced that a delegation of its protestors will meet with the Minister of Labor, Michel Sapin, in Paris on Friday, June 17 and has encouraged the youth to make their voices heard in the struggle. The Paris labour protests have shown, once again, the awakening of a movement by those who inhabit the wage-earning grassroots.
[Photo by Francois Mori/AP Images]