Two of the fiercest flashpoints were in France’s two biggest cities. For a second day a school in the northern Parisian suburb of Nanterre was the centre of confrontations between young people and the police.
Police were pelted with stones and protesters burned cars and smashed street furniture. Officers responded with tear gas and flash-ball projectiles.
There were similar disturbances in other parts of Paris, where over 80 people were in custody by late afternoon.
Lyon’s city centre was invaded for a second day in scenes of unusual violence. Shops closed but several were looted, cars were burned, and the main street resembled a war zone as police struggled to contain, let alone control, the situation.
“You have to differentiate between troublemakers and those of us who want to talk. That’s why we’re staging a sit-in. We want to talk and negotiate with the government,” said one student.
For these young people this is more than about just pensions reforms. Much of President Sarkozy’s reforming zeal fell first on state education. Add to that the lack of jobs even for the qualified, and many here are just fed up. Many French commentators also claim others are just looking to smash things up using the protest as cover.