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Posts tagged ‘Protests in France’

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.

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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.

17 charged after violent protest rages in Paris suburb

February 08, 2017

AULNAY-SOUS-BOIS, France (AP) — Protesters burned cars and menaced security forces in an eruption of violence in a Paris suburb early Tuesday over a young black man allegedly being raped by a police baton, and authorities said 17 people were being charged.

Six adults would be tried in immediate hearings in a suburb court Wednesday under charges of “ambush” or “acts of violence and gathering with weapons,” while 11 minors were to be presented to a juvenile court judge for alleged ambush, the prosecutor’s office in Bobigny said Tuesday night.

Police initially detained 26 people during the pre-dawn outburst in which a police car and other vehicles were set afire in Aulnay-sous-Bois, a working class suburb northeast of Paris. At one point, police encircled by an angry crowd fired warning shots into the air using real bullets, according to French press reports. No injuries were reported.

Firefighters raced to restore order after several shops were reported damaged and garbage bins burned in Aulnay-sous-Bois, which has a large minority population. Authorities are wary of unrest in France’s poor towns, remembering the fiery 2005 riots that spread through France — beginning in the Paris suburb of Clichy-Sous-Bois and hopscotching through social housing around the country.

The latest violence was a show of outrage in support of a young black man who authorities allege was sodomized with a police officer’s baton last week during a spate of identity checks as part of a police operation targeting drug traffickers. One officer was charged Sunday with aggravated rape and three others were charged with aggravated assault.

President Francois Hollande visited the alleged victim, identified only by his first name, Theo, on Tuesday afternoon at the suburban hospital where he has been treated since the incident, the Elysee Palace said.

In a video posted on Twitter page of the newspaper Le Parisien, Hollande stood talking to Theo, who was lying on a hospital bed. The president told him that “the legal process is underway” and that “we must trust it to get to the bottom of this.”

Then, speaking to the camera, Hollande said, “We are also thinking about Theo who has always been known for his exemplary behavior in a family … with good relations with police.” With Hollande standing beside him, Theo called for young people in Aulnay-sous-Bois to be calm.

“My town, you know that I love it very much. I would like to find it just as I left it. So guys, stop making war, be united, trust in the justice system and justice will be done,” Theo said. “Pray for me so I can return as soon as possible among you and be together. Thank you, thank you, Mister President.”

Earlier, Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called for “the greatest firmness” should any of the four police officers implicated be proven guilty. Frederic Gabet, a lawyer for the officer charged with rape, has said that any injury inflicted was done accidentally.

After the early morning violence, Police Alliance spokesman Frederic Lagache said one officer narrowly escaped being burned when a protester set his vehicle on fire with a Molotov cocktail. “The objective is to kill cops and this is unacceptable,” Lagache said in an interview with Europe-1.

Local youths claim police habitually target them without cause. “Frankly, it’s pathetic. The kid (Theo), he plays football, he’s serious. He never was in trouble with the police,” said Sofiane Hajjobi, a 21-year-old resident. “It’s not normal. We’re all frustrated. Now we’re at war with the police.”

Theo, 22, told his story to the BFM television channel Monday. He said officers beat him and peppered him with racist insults. At one point, one of the officers took his truncheon and “he drove it into my buttocks,” he said.

The Associated Press does not typically identify victims of sexual assault. But, in this case, the victim and his family gave interviews to the media, and the French president publicly used the young man’s first name in his presence and in front of a camera.

Associated Press writers Elaine Ganley, Sylvie Corbet and Philippe Sotto in Paris contributed to this report.

French towns protest plan to take in migrants from Calais

October 08, 2016

PIERREFEU, France (AP) — French villagers are protesting the arrival of migrants who are being dispersed around the country as the government shuts down the slum-like camp in Calais that has become a flashpoint in Europe’s migrant crisis.

Competing rallies were held Saturday in Pierrefeu in Provence in southeast France, under watch of gendarmes. The mayor led several hundred people protesting a government proposal to house a few dozen migrants in an abandoned wing of a psychiatric hospital while they apply for asylum or study other options.

Left-wing activists answered with their own, smaller rally to welcome the migrants — but then were drowned out by yet another gathering organized by the anti-immigrant, far-right National Front party.

The National Front is making the Calais relocation plan a nationwide cause, urging mayors to resist and organizing protests across the country. Resistance to immigration is central to the campaign platform of National Front leader Marine Le Pen in her bid for the French presidency next year.

President Francois Hollande has pledged to close the Calais camp before winter and relocate as many as 9,000 migrants living there to 164 sites around France while their cases are examined. The Calais camp has been an embarrassment to the French government and symbol of Europe’s failure to find solutions to the migrant crisis.

Authorities are already busing migrants out of Calais in small numbers ahead of what aid groups expect to be a larger operation starting in the next couple of weeks. Pierrefeu residents hostile to the migrants say they fear the newcomers will threaten their security and worry about potential tensions with psychiatric patients. The government is considering sending up to 60 migrants to this town of 6,000 for up to five months.

“Even if we can understand the dismantling of Calais … our small towns are not the solution for this dismantling. We are too small to host so many people,” said Mayor Patrick Martinelli. At the National Front rally, residents wore French flags on their shoulders. Some shouted “France is for French people!” and said they feared terrorists would be among the migrants.

National Front Senator David Rachline came to Pierrefeu to push Le Pen’s presidential bid. “French people will have to choose at the presidential election: Do they want — yes or no — to continue with those crazy immigration policies?” he declared.

Pro-migrant locals called for solidarity. “I am ashamed because we repress the poorest. They need us, the people who are coming from abroad and are dying in the seas. We have everything here, we are a rich country, we have a rich village,” said Pierrefeu resident Laure Paul.

National Front politicians were also at a protest Saturday in Forges-les-Bains, south of Paris. About 200 people marched through town to protest the arrival of about 40 Afghan migrants relocated from Calais to an unused building.

In Forges-les-Bains, villagers largely said they were not hostile to the migrants themselves — they just don’t want them in their towns. Posters at the march read “Not against migrants, but against the state” and “Plan imposed from above = mounting anger.”

Angela Charlton in Paris and Christophe Ena in Forges-les-Bains contributed.

French police protest the violence they say is aimed at them

May 18, 2016

PARIS (AP) — French police took to the streets in about 60 cities Wednesday to denounce the hatred and violence they say has been repeatedly directed at them during protests against the government’s labor reforms. In some places they faced counter-protesters, who said the police themselves were instigating the violence.

In Paris, a few hundred police officers gathered on the Republic Plaza during their lunch break. Several hundred counter-demonstrators came by, chanting slogans like “Everybody hates the police!” and pushing up against the officers until eventually the police deployed pepper spray to disperse the crowd.

Some counter-protesters set fire to a police car in a street nearby. Vanina Giudicelli, one of the counter-protesters, told The Associated Press that the police gathering was “a real provocation.” “Since the first demonstration on March 9, we notice that they generate the violence. We have been sprayed by gas, hit with batons, arrested,” she said.

Jean-Claude Delage, secretary general of the Alliance police union, denounced an “escalation of violence” in the labor protests and said some people were harassing police officers with projectiles and Molotov cocktails and even hitting them with iron bars.

“Troublemakers provoke clashes in the middle of peaceful protests. So it’s very complicated for police forces to isolate and arrest them,” Delage explained on BFM television. French President Francois Hollande said Tuesday that over 350 police officers have been injured in clashes and 60 people have been convicted amid the labor reform protests.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve says he is offering his “full support” to police following the weekly Cabinet Council meeting. He said the police have instructions to take “firm action” against those who take part in violent clashes.

“Anti-cop hatred comes from a small portion of the population … but these 10 percent are very violent,” Jean-Marc Falcone, general director of the police, told Europe 1 radio.

Chris Den Hond contributed to the story.

Tear gas, clashes mar French protests over labor law reforms

April 09, 2016

PARIS (AP) — French police clashed with protesters rejecting labor law changes in several cities Saturday, sending clouds of tear gas across the Place de la Nation in Paris and torrents of water against demonstrators in Nantes.

Several rallies were marred by violence amid nationwide protests against the labor reforms being championed by the country’s Socialist government. Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Paris to protest the changes to the rules governing layoffs and France’s 35-hour workweek. Officials hope the changes will inject some flexibility into the country’s stagnant labor market but many workers fear it will do little more than weaken the nation’s generous social protections.

Local media counted at least 200 demonstrations across France, including a march in Paris kicking off from Place de la Republique, home to a round-the-clock Occupy Wall Street-style sit-in in reaction to the reforms.

Paris police said three officers were injured in the clashes. French television broadcast scenes from the western cities of Nantes, where authorities deployed a water cannon to disperse protesters, and Rennes, where police faced off against gas mask-wearing, shield-wielding rioters clad all in black, firing flash-bangs and sound grenades.

Continued unrest over the labor plans is piling the pressure on France’s ruling Socialists, who have already been forced to retreat over security plans to pull the citizenship of dual nationals convicted of terrorism.

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