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Archive for the ‘Protests in France’ Category

Thousands party at Paris protest to show anger at Macron

May 06, 2018

PARIS (AP) — Tens of thousands of protesters in Paris danced, picnicked and railed against President Emmanuel Macron at a “party” marking his first year in office. Police fired tear gas on troublemakers on the margins of the largely festive protest Saturday, and eight people were arrested. Authorities deployed 2,000 police to the event after violence and ransacking scarred a May Day protest in the French capital earlier this week, shocking many.

“Stop Macron!” read placards at Saturday’s rally in front of Paris’ famed Opera Garnier. Demonstrators then marched through tourist-filled neighborhoods toward the Bastille plaza in eastern Paris. Organizers of Saturday’s march, the far-left party Defiant France, planned the event around the one-year anniversary of Macron’s May 7, 2017 election. He was inaugurated a week later, and quickly launched broad changes to France’s labor rules to increase the nation’s global competitiveness.

Protesters are angry at reforms led by Macron, a centrist former investment banker, such as cutting some worker protections and increasing police powers. “This regime is a regime that’s an authoritarian regime. We are in a soft dictatorship and we have concerns about guarantees of individual freedoms and the guarantee of fundamental rights,” said protester Roselyne Gonle-Luillier, a judge.

Macron won the presidency on a wave of disillusionment at France’s traditional parties, beating far-right Marine Le Pen in a runoff. He has raised France’s international profile — but at home many voters are disgruntled and fear that he is dismantling the French way of life.

“What we want specifically is to resist, show him (Macron) our anger, show him that there are some French people who did not vote for him, do not agree with what he is trying to do,” said Sylvie Brissonneau, who will soon retire. One of Macron’s reforms is raising taxes for retirees.

The party atmosphere Saturday was a relief after the May Day violence, which saw protesters torch cars and vandalize a McDonald’s restaurant and other stores. A judicial official said Saturday that seven people have been charged in the May Day unrest. Authorities blamed more than 1,000 masked attackers from an anarchist group called the Black Blocs who disrupted a peaceful workers march.

At Saturday’s march, organizers said they were in regular contact with the police to avoid serious damage.

Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.


Arrests, injuries as French protesters challenge Macron

April 15, 2018

PARIS (AP) — French authorities say 63 people have been arrested and nine police officers injured as protests took place in two cities amid simmering anger at President Emmanuel Macron’s labor law changes.

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb denounced the violence and damage to stores and public buildings at the edges of Saturday’s protests in Nantes in western France and Montpellier in the south. Collomb called for calm as another protest is planned Sunday at Notre-Dame-des-Landes in western France.

Other protests Saturday around France were largely peaceful. Train workers were marching during on-and-off strikes over Macron’s railway labor reform plan, strikes that have disrupted traffic nationwide.

Macron is going on national television Sunday night to explain his reforms to the French economy. He says he’s making the country more competitive globally while workers fear losing job protections.

Protesters ousted from Sorbonne; French train strikes resume

April 13, 2018

PARIS (AP) — Paris riot police cleared out students seeking to occupy the Sorbonne university, and strikes shut down the Eiffel Tower and two-thirds of French trains Friday — all part of a season of simmering national discontent.

Much of the anger centers on President Emmanuel Macron, but he went on national TV on Thursday to declare that strikes and protests won’t prevent him from overhauling France’s economy. Rail workers resumed a strike Friday that is set to disrupt travel off-and-on through June. But the number of striking workers is down from previous actions, and international trains were largely maintained.

The Eiffel Tower announced that it is closed to the public Friday because of a strike by security personnel. Their demands were not immediately clear. The Sorbonne announced its iconic Left Bank site is closed Friday for security reasons after the Thursday night police operation. While about 200 students were evacuated, a few hundred others gathered outside, chanting angrily at police, though the incident ended peacefully.

The site was a nucleus of student protests 50 years ago in May 1968, when strikes and university occupations paralyzed France’s economy in a pivotal moment in modern French history. Students at campuses around France are now protesting admissions reforms that they fear threaten access to public university for all high school graduates. Macron on Thursday dismissed the student protesters as “professional agitators” and ridiculed some of their demands.

While the 1968 protesters were seeking to overturn old ways, today’s workers and students are fighting to maintain the status quo — including hard-fought worker rights that Macron says are incompatible with today’s global economy.

The 40-year-old French leader said Thursday he’s determined to push ahead with reforms to the national rail authority SNCF, to prepare it to open up to competition. Commuters squeezed into scarce trains Friday and electronic display boards showed disrupted traffic as SNCF workers kicked off a new two-day strike.

“We have to leave earlier, we arrive late at work. We have no choice. I’ll have to leave earlier this evening to catch a train,” said commuter Sandra Loretti at the Gare Saint-Lazare station in northwest Paris. “We take the car, extra journey, extra time, extra tiredness.”

Hospital staff, retirees, lawyers and magistrates are also holding protests over reforms by Macron’s government. The president will go on national television again Sunday, answering questions for two hours from BFM television and investigative website Mediapart.

New French unrest: Students, medics protest Macron reforms

April 05, 2018

ROUEN, France (AP) — Students and medical workers are facing off against riot police in a protest over reforms by President Emmanuel Macron’s government. The protest is taking place Thursday outside a hospital in the Normandy city of Rouen, where Macron is visiting a unit dedicated to children with autism.

Medical workers brandished union flags and banners decrying “Hospital Hell” to express anger over cuts to the public health care system. Local students also joined the protest. Students have been blocking some campuses around France in recent weeks to protest plans to allow selection at public universities, and other changes.

The protest comes after two days of crippling strikes on the state railway network. Macron’s efforts to overhaul the French economy are meeting increasing resistance.

French marchers fill Paris streets to protest new work rules

September 23, 2017

PARIS (AP) — French far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon urged protesters Saturday to take to the streets and mount strikes to force President Emmanuel Macron to withdraw the labor law changes that are key to his business-friendly economic vision.

Speaking to tens of thousands in Paris, Melenchon assailed the president’s new labor decrees as a gift to greedy corporations and the financial markets that have both fueled income inequality. Macron, for his part, says the decrees are crucial to creating jobs and tackling France’s chronic high unemployment.

“The battle isn’t over — it is beginning,” Melenchon told the crowd packed onto the Place de la Republique in eastern Paris. Earlier, marchers stretched along Paris boulevards waving French tricolor flags, union banners and signs reading “Macron, Resign!”

“It’s the street that brought down the kings. It’s the street that brought down the Nazis,” said Melenchon, who is trying to position himself as France’s main opposition figure. The labor decrees that Macron signed Friday reduce French unions’ influence over workplace rules and make it easier for companies to fire workers — but Saturday’s demonstration reflected wider frustration with the new French president’s leadership.

“Everything that’s done in terms of fiscal policies is in favor of the rich, the wealthy and big companies,” complained marcher Cedric Moulinier, 26. “We’re asking for things to start going the right way, a more social, humanist and environmentalist way.”

Many were angry at a reference Macron made to the “lazy” people who opposed the changes. While the president has already signed the decrees and they are expected to be ratified by parliament soon, Melenchon still insisted it is not too late to overturn them.

He said he would reach out to unions to join forces against the labor decrees, which he said threaten the French way of life. “All of Europe is watching us. …. What is happening is the battle for France,” he said.

The crowd, which police estimated at 30,000 and organizers estimated at 150,000, repeatedly broke into chants of “Resistance!” or “Get out!” The protesters are also angry that Macron used a special procedure allowing the government to change labor law by executive order instead going through a lengthy debate to pass a bill in parliament.

Macron lauded the “unprecedented wave of changes” to France’s social model, along with changes to unemployment benefits and a training plan for jobless people that will be set up next year. While Macron shone at the U.N. General Assembly in New York last week and has made a strong mark on the international stage, he has struggled with myriad critics at home. Farmers, riot police and carnival workers have held protests in recent weeks over work policy changes under Macron, and truckers plan road blockades on Monday.

Among Melenchon’s suggestions to pressure the government to withdraw the reforms is a “pots and pans party.” “Grab your pots next Saturday to make as much noise as possible,” he said. “This is what our message will be: You make our lives miserable. You prevent us from dreaming so we will prevent you from sleeping.”

Alex Turnbull and Oleg Cetinic contributed in Paris.

Thousands in France march to protest Macron’s labor law

September 21, 2017

PARIS (AP) — Tens of thousands of protesters marched in Paris and other French cities against President Emmanuel Macron’s contested labor law reforms Thursday — a day before he adopts them by executive order.

The nationwide action, backed by the powerful, hard-left CGT trade union, saw protesters take to the streets in the second round of public opposition to the long-touted changes that will give more power to employers to hire and fire workers. Macron says that’s needed to power the stagnant French economy and boost jobs.

In cities across the country, demonstrators waved anti-capitalist placards and angry personal messages against Macron, whose popularity has recently taken a hit. In Paris, huge crowds turned out to a protest that police said was attended by 16,000 people. Organizers put the figure at 55,000.

That protest was largely peaceful, but some localized, brief scuffles broke out between a few dozen violent protesters wearing black hoods and riot police using tear gas. Demonstrators brandishing posters reading “The state ruins the people” marched past the posh La Rotonde restaurant where Macron was branded arrogant for prematurely celebrating his victory in the first round of the elections before he had won the presidency.

The latest protests come a week after hundreds of thousands of protesters — 220,000 according to police and half a million according to the unions — took to the streets in many French cities in the first major challenge to Macron’s fledgling presidency.

Macron is waving away the opposition and his government is pressing ahead with the labor reforms. Macron used a special procedure that enabled him to pass the measures without a lengthy debate at parliament. Opponents criticized the method as a sign of authoritarianism.

He is due to sign a series of executive orders Friday following a Cabinet meeting. Left-wing leader Jean-Luc Melenchon has called for more street protests on Saturday.

Paris protesters decry police abuse; some clash with police

February 18, 2017

PARIS (AP) — Paris police sprayed tear gas at bottle-throwing demonstrators on the margins of a rally Saturday meant to support a young black man who was allegedly raped with a police baton and other victims of police abuse.

Two police officers were injured and 13 people were arrested in the clashes, which involved about 150 of the thousands of mostly peaceful anti-racism demonstrators. The skirmishes marked the latest in a string of protests around the alleged rape that have degenerated into violence.

Police had installed a security perimeter around Paris’ Place de la Republique for the rally. Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, meanwhile, urged the government to ban the protest out of respect for police.

Demonstrators carried banners reading “Justice for Theo,” the name of the 22-year-old alleged rape victim. The protesters argue that Theo is just one example of many young minority men unfairly targeted by French police in ID checks and sometimes abused.

One officer has been charged with rape in the case, and three others with aggravated assault. All deny intentional wrongdoing. Former French national soccer star Lillian Thuram was among the Paris marchers Saturday calling for justice.

“Living in the public space is not the same, depending on the color of your skin,” he said. “We’re in 2017. This is a real shame.” Theo, whose last name has not been released, was hospitalized for two weeks after the reported attack in his hometown of Aulnay-sous-Bois northeast of Paris..

After an apparent video of the attack circulated online, angry youth torched cars and clashed with police for several days in suburbs around Paris. The violence was reminiscent of riots in 2005 that exposed France’s long-running problems between youths in public housing projects with high immigrant populations and police.

Demonstrator Hamid Djudi, 57, expressed frustration Saturday that successive French governments have failed to prevent abuse and discrimination. “In the 1980s, we were protesting racism … I was 20 years old in the ’80s. I used to face (police) controls four times a day,” he said. “History repeats itself. My own children are facing the same troubles.”

“One of them is an engineer, the other is a doctor, and my daughter is at the Institute of Political Studies. And they are controlled by police every time they go out of our building,” he lamented. “This is not normal. That’s why I decided to come here. To protest for my children.”

Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.

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