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2022 FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

French students occupy universities protesting against both Macron and Le Pen

A student occupation of the Sorbonne in Paris in protest over political choices following the first round of the Presidential elections has ended after more than 30 hours, but more are planned.

Students demonstrate outside La Sorbonne University, in Paris, 10 days ahead of the second round of France's presidential election.
Students demonstrate outside La Sorbonne University, in Paris, 10 days ahead of the second round of France's presidential election. (Photo: Julien de Rosa / AFP)

An estimated 100 students had started occupying the building on Wednesday to condemn what they called the “fake choice” between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen in the second round of voting on April 24th. 

“All the students of the occupation decided to leave,” a second-year philosophy student and Unef activist, told AFP after it was reported that gendarmerie officers were planning to enter the building. 

The final protesters left the building overnight. But the university has said that its Censier building will remain closed until the end of second-semester classes on Saturday, April 23rd – the day before voters return to the ballot box for the second round.

About 150 other students who were blocking access to Sciences Po Paris ended their sit-in on Thursday afternoon after a “removal” action organised by far-right activists.

The protest movement has spread to several universities across France this week. Other sporadic occupation protests took place the day after the first round, at the University of Paris 8 and the École Normale Supérieure Jourdan, in the 14th arrondissement of Paris, which were blocked. Around 50 students also blocked the entrances to the Sciences Po Paris campus in Nancy with pallets on Wednesday.

Although the occupation of Sorbonne is over, a number of other protests are planned, including one outside ENS Paris-Saclay, Gif-sur-Yvette, on Friday afternoon, while anti-far right demonstrations are planned in towns and cities across France on Saturday.

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POLITICS

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France’s disabilities minister

France's disabilities minister will not face a new inquiry "as things stand" over a rape allegation that surfaced just after his nomination by President Emmanuel Macron last week, prosecutors have said, citing the anonymity of the alleged victim.

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France's disabilities minister

Damien Abad has faced growing pressure to resign after the news website Mediapart reported the assault claims by two women dating from over a decade ago, which he has denied.

One of the women, identified only by her first name, Margaux, filed a rape complaint in 2017 that was later dismissed by prosecutors.

The other woman, known only as Chloe, told Mediapart that in 2010 she had blacked out after accepting a glass of champagne from Abad at a bar in Paris, and woke up in her underwear in pain with him in a hotel room. She believes she may have been drugged.

She did not file an official complaint, but the Paris prosecutors’ office said it was looking into the case after being informed by the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics, a group formed by members of France’s MeToo movement.

“As things stand, the Paris prosecutors’ office is not following up on the letter” from the observatory, it said, citing “the inability to identify the victim of the alleged acts and therefore the impossibility of proceeding to a hearing.”

In cases of sexual assault against adults, Paris prosecutors can open an inquiry only if an official complaint is made, meaning the victim must give their identity.

Abad has rejected the calls to resign in order to ensure the new government’s “exemplarity,” saying that he is innocent and that his own condition of arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his joints, means sexual relations can occur only with the help of a partner.

The appointment of Abad as minister for solidarities and people with disabilities in a reshuffle last Friday was seen as a major coup for Macron, as the 42-year-old had defected from the right-wing opposition.

The new prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, said she was unaware of the allegations before Abad’s nomination, but insisted that “If there is new information, if a new complaint is filed, we will draw all the consequences.”

The claims could loom large over parliamentary elections next month, when Macron is hoping to secure a solid majority for his reformist agenda. Abad will be standing for re-election in the Ain department north of Lyon.

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