There has been fierce fighting between groups of radicals and police as a demonstration against a new French labour law ended in violence. Far-right and hard-left extremists are being blamed by some media for the rioting in the Latin Quarter of Paris. Some demonstrators came prepared with masks to counter tear gas, suggesting violence was premeditated.
Over 180 people were arrested, and several police were injured. Commentators say the scenes were more reminiscent of the suburban rioting last November than the student protests of May 1968. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy believes the marches were infiltrated: “I asked the police to be very tough with the thugs and delinquents, and protect the young people, that means the demonstrators,” he said.
An estimated 300,000 students and school pupils demonstrated yesterday, and the French press is looking ahead to Saturday’s marches, when organisers hope to attract up to a million people. The anger is directed at the CPE, or first job contract, which is aimed at cutting youth unemployment, currently running at nearly 23 per cent.
The most controversial clause allows employers to lay off staff without reason. The CPE can only be given to under 26 year olds. Youngsters say it is a threat to their future.