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 of Louis Le Grand high school in Paris block the entrance to their school to raise awareness of ecological and social issues
Students of Louis Le Grand high school in Paris block the entrance to their school to raise awareness of ecological and social issues. (Photo: Thomas Coex / AFP)

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.

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French Elections: 5 things you didn’t know about Jean Lassalle

Jean Lassalle is a big personality and has been involved in French politics since 1977, but he failed to make a dent during the last presidential election.

French Elections: 5 things you didn't know about Jean Lassalle

He has been fined by the Assemblée nationale 

66-year-old Jean Lassalle has been an MP for the Pyrénées-Atlantiques département since 2002. 

He is known for his outlandish antics in the Assemblée nationale, the lower house of the French parliament. He had €1,500 docked from his salary in 2018 for refusing to remove a Yellow Vest during a parliamentary session. 

Lassalle wore the vest in solidarity with the protest movement and said that he paid the fine “with honour and pride”. 

He grew up speaking Occitan 

Jean Lassalle grew up in an Occitan speaking area of France deep in the Pyrénées. 

He comes from a family of shepherds who practice a prehistoric form of nomadic agriculture known as transhumance. 

Lassalle is proud of his roots. During a televised debate on BMFTV in the run up to the 2017 presidential election, he described himself as the “son of a shepherd, the brother of a shepherd”. 

He has even written a book titled Un berger à l’Elysée – A Farmer at the Elysée. 

In 2003, he stood up and started singing the Occitan anthem, Se Canta, in the Assemblée nationale. The move was a protest against what he saw as a slur on the Pyrenees by then-Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. Many other MPs cracked up laughing. 

He spent 8 months walking across France (and was disappointed by what he found)

Lasalle walked across France for eight months in 2018, to gain a better understanding of the population.

“Everywhere I went I witnessed a crisis in the standard of living, a loss of identity and the loss of a sense of a common destiny,” he told Europe 1. 

During his 4,500km journey, he said that he was shocked by the level of racism and antisemitism among ordinary citizens. 

In the run up to the 2022 presidential election, he is touring the country in a big blue bus with a photo of his face and the message La France Authentique emblazoned across the side. 

Jean Lassalle spent 8 months walking across France in 2013, covering 4,500km.

Jean Lassalle spent 8 months walking across France in 2013, covering 4,500km. (Photo by PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP)

He went on hunger strike to protect jobs in his constituency 

Jean Lassalle has been an elected representative, in some capacity, since 1977. 

In 2006, when a Japanese firm sought to relocated a paint factory that employed hundreds of his constituents, he went on hunger strike. The company eventually agreed not to close the factory and continue investment in the area. 

Lassalle lost more than 20kg over the course of his hunger strike. 

He is partial to a topless photo shoot 

In the run up to the 2017 election, Lassalle inexplicably posted multiple shirtless photos videos online. 

He was snapped chopping wood, trimming hedges and mowing the lawn. For someone in his 60s, he is is good shape and it clearly runs in the family – his son is a professional rugby player in the French second division.