French pupils on the warpath again over labour reforms

Thursday has seen renewed protests in France over the planned labour reforms, with pupils clashing with police and injuring two teachers.

French pupils on the warpath again over labour reforms
Students throw projectiles at riot police in Montpellier, southern France, during a demonstration against the government's planned labour reform. Photo: AFP
High school pupils in France aren't warming to the planned labour reforms – rather the opposite.
In southern France's Montpellier on Thursday, pupils clashed with police officers and set fire to garbage bins. 
Riot police with tear gas were called in to disperse the mob.
Pupils were yelling: “You are here to protect us, not to attack us,” reported the BFM TV channel
There were stand-offs in Paris too, with protesters in the 11th arrondissement injuring two senior staff from the Voltaire high school. One of the attacks was deemed “violent” by the teacher in a complaint. 
Elsewhere in the capital, riot police blocked students near the Jaures Metro station in the 19th arrondissement, before clashes occurred.
Pupils pelted police with flour, bottles and chairs with riot cops responding with tear gas, in the kind of tit for tat street battles that have become common during the protests.


One young protester told The Local: “We want to march to Place de la Republique but the police have just come in and blocked us. There are riot police surrounding the students and plain clothes police all over the place.”

The Local's Oliver Gee said: “When protesters got through the police block there were some crazy scenes with a few chairs thrown and lots of pepper spray from the police.

“Tensions are high as the protesters marched towards République. There's a huge number of riot police who are flanking the march along Rue Lafayette.

“Protesters, some of whom are masked, are throwing bottles, sticks and basically anything they can find at the officers, who are quick to respond with tear spray. Dozens of kids have tears streaming down their faces.”

Many who The Local spoke with said they were fed up with how long it has taken for any changes to the planned labour reforms. 

“This has been going on for a month and still no one is listening,” one pupil, who preferred not to be named, told The Local. 

He added that he thinks the reason it's mostly students protesting is because other workers simply don't have the time during the workdays. 
“Otherwise I think they'd join us.”
Another teenager said he blamed police for the flare ups.
“Look how close they are standing to us. They're provoking us.”

There were reports that high school students had tried to storm the Gare de L'Est and Gare du Nord train stations, but were barred by a line of riot police.

A member of the Force Ouvrier union who was joining the protest told The Local the blame for the violence in recent protests lay with both the police and a minority of “leftist rioters”.

“There are some who just turn up to fight with the police. They have nothing to do with the protest and having probably know little about the planned reforms.

“Then there's the police who have been seen attacking the students and spraying them with tear gas. Both are to blame.”

Since the start of last month, France has seen demonstrations across the country aimed to keep up pressure against the reforms, which will make it easier for struggling companies to fire workers.

Socialist President Francois Hollande's government is desperate to push through the reforms, billed as a last-gasp attempt to boost the flailing economy before next year's presidential election.

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Students blockade Paris schools in election protest

Students blockaded five schools in Paris on Tuesday to demonstrate their political concerns ahead of the second round of the Presidential elections on Sunday.

Students blockade Paris schools in election protest

In addition to the five blockaded lycées, the université Paris 8 in Saint-Denis was closed “for security reasons”.

The students – who are too young to make their voices heard at the ballot box – were protesting against the options available to voters in the second round – where incumbent Emmanuel Macron takes on far-right leader Marine Le Pen – and follows earlier student protests at the Sorbonne.

Many were demonstrating in protest at what they saw as inadequate policies on climate change and social issues from both candidates in the final round of voting, as well as the lack of choice for the electorate.

“It is a continuation of what happened at the Sorbonne,” one student told AFP. “We want a third social round, because the two candidates qualified for the second round have no social or ecological programmes. 

“We want to give a new breath to this Fifth Republic a little at the end of the race.

“We are fed up with the fascist state. We are here against Marine Le Pen, against fascism, for the climate and against capitalism,” another student at the lycée Louis-le-Grand in the capital’s fifth arrondissement said.

“We have blocked all the entrances. We will stay there as long as possible.”

About 100 students blockaded the prestigious school. Some students chant slogans against the “Front National” – the former name of second-round candidate Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National party.

The blockades ended peacefully at the end of the day.