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France’s political crisis grows as 3 million take to streets

by : Angelique Chrisafis
Wednesday April 5, 2006 - 15:57
7 comments
JPEG - 82.8 kb

by Angelique Chrisafis in Paris

Police fought running battles with rioters in central Paris last night as youths attacked officers with bangers, bottles and concrete at the end of a mass demonstration against a youth employment law that has caused a political crisis for Jacques Chirac’s ruling party.

Trade unionists and student leaders said up to three million people took to the streets across France yesterday - the second time in eight days that the country has seen its biggest street demonstrations in almost 40 years. The protests, including one by hundreds of thousands of students and scholars who marched through central Paris, were mainly peaceful.

They were marked by a carnival atmosphere somewhere between a victory parade for the demonstrators and a funeral march for the "first employment law" as the ruling party prepared to begin negotiating its way out of the crisis.

Police fired teargas in Paris’s Place d’Italie last night after groups of students and youths, some from the suburbs, attacked police lines. At Saint-Lazare station, riot police pulled over people disembarking from the suburbs, searching bags and checking identities. At the universities, students vowed to maintain the barricades over the Easter holidays, which begin this weekend.

Demonstrators marched in around 280 French towns and cities. In Rennes, where one university faculty has been blockaded for two months, students blocked railway tracks closing the station for almost an hour and police clashed with demonstrators who had gathered outside the ruling UMP party offices. About 60 students lobbed eggs and other objects at police in the northern city of Lille.

The "easy hire-easy fire" measure at the heart of the protests was pushed through parliament last month, in an attempt by the prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, to address France’s crippling youth unemployment of 23%. Paradoxically, the law made it easier for businesses to sack workers aged under 26 after two years without explanation. The government believed employers would be quicker to take young workers on if they were spared rigid employment rules that make it difficult to get rid of staff.

After two months of protests in which hundreds of schools and universities have been blockaded, closed or occupied and workers joined in a national strike, Mr Chirac signed the law on Sunday but asked for changes: the probation period for workers would be only one year and employers must give a reason for dismissal. He also ordered talks with unions.

Because the amended law will not come into operation until May, this allows a window in which trade unionists insist the law must be shelved and rewritten.

The measure has become a political battlefield for the potential candidates in next year’s presidential election. Mr De Villepin, Mr Chirac’s favoured successor, told the national assembly yesterday that he would not "throw in the towel". But a poll to be published in L’Express news weekly tomorrow shows his approval rating has slumped to 28%, one of the steepest monthly falls on record according to the polling company BVA. His approval rating was 48% in January

His rival, the interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, has emerged as a possible broker to end the conflict, charged with bringing unions to the negotiating table. His allies have briefed the press this week that the law is dead and buried, or at least suspended, damaging Mr De Villepin.

France’s main unions agreed to talks last night but insisted that they wanted the law withdrawn.

"There is new blood in this movement," the CGT union chief, Bernard Thibault, said yesterday. "I hope these rallies will help us deal the fatal blow."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,,...



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> France’s political crisis grows as 3 million take to streets
Thursday April 6 - 04:31 - Posted by 45453ffa07d1cae8...

If only people in the United States had the intelligence and were brave enough to stand up against their government … cowards and war criminals they hide behind the red, white and blue screaming at their invisible enemies only to hide and squirm when real freedom is at stake




> France’s political crisis grows as 3 million take to streets
Thursday April 27 - 10:34 - Posted by b3690dce72821dae...

What if you had no government protection against a mob, maybe you have no house? Who would help you? And If you cant defend your house with a gun you can be killed raped robbed before police can get there. Tell me you could be there in time!



> France’s political crisis grows as 3 million take to streets
Sunday April 9 - 00:26 - Posted by 408db4d768a5e6c2...

Jeunes d’Europe, venez tous ! Venez à Paris, Lille, Rennes, Toulouse, etc. Dormez dans les facs ! On vous attend !
Lise




> France’s political crisis grows as 3 million take to streets
Sunday April 9 - 00:40 - Posted by 408db4d768a5e6c2...

Viendez everybody !
Lise




> France’s political crisis grows as 3 million take to streets
Friday April 14 - 18:09 - Posted by 0935ad182e92f657...

France is a failed system. Double diget unemployment and an angry youth that fails to see that the very things they think they are fighting for are the reasons for thier own ills.




> France’s political crisis grows as 3 million take to streets
Tuesday April 18 - 10:54 - Posted by 21572c1408ed6476...

France looks like a great place to me. A politically aware populace, unlike the zombies in Britain, and an independent nuclear detterant. I’m making a prediction. Blair has to act reasonably until after election day, so what’s the bet that the bombers fly on May 6th? And as Bush changed all the rules on "pre-emptive strikes" and Iran knows what is coming...........



> France’s political crisis grows as 3 million take to streets
Monday April 24 - 17:34 - Posted by 20391bb6c61ec8be...

"There are none so hopelessly enslaved as those who think that they are free."







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