Paris police break out the teargas again

14th March 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 14, 2006 (AFP) - Riot police in Paris used tear gas Monday to disperse students protesting at a new youth jobs contract, after Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin refused to give way to a growing movement of opposition.

PARIS, March 14, 2006 (AFP) - Riot police in Paris used tear gas Monday to disperse students protesting at a new youth jobs contract, after Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin refused to give way to a growing movement of opposition.

Several hundred school and university students tried to storm the College de France, an elite research institution in the capital's Latin Quarter, with dozens of them breaking into the building, before being repelled by police.

Groups of students hurled stones and drink cans at the security forces as they tried to evict them, with calm returning at around 5pm.

Around 50 protesters managed to stay inside, blocking the main entrance to the building and unfurling a protest banner across it, as police — unable to enter the premises without authorisation — looked on from the street.

The riot police finally forced them out, without major incident, before midnight, breaking in at the request of the college administrator.

The protesters emerged flashing victory signs and chanting "police everywhere, justice nowhere".

Earlier police fired teargas in front of the college entrance, to disperse the crowd gathered there, as they came under fire from stones and beer cans.

The nearby Sorbonne university, centre of the May 1968 student uprising, remained cordoned off after police used force to evict several hundred protesters from its buildings at the weekend.

Across France, nearly 40 universities were hit by partial or total shutdown, with street demonstrations planned on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Tensions were reported between strikers and students wishing to continue their studies, and secret ballots were held in a number of establishments to determine the balance of opinion.

Half a dozen universities, including Bordeaux in the southwest, Lille in the north and Aix-Marseille and Toulouse in the south, voted to continue protesting against the labour reform.

On Sunday Villepin appeared on national television in a bid to defuse the growing sense of crisis over the First Employment Contract (CPE) — an open-ended contract for under 26 year-olds which can be terminated within the first two years without explanation.

The prime minister said the law — which cleared its way through parliament last week — would come into effect as planned, but he promised new "guarantees" over training and severance pay.

Opponents on Monday angrily condemned Villepin's intervention, and promised to maintain their campaign till the CPE is dropped.

"He said that the law will be applied. My reply is that the street will speak. You can't put out a forest fire with a glass of water .... The mobilisation will grow. The prime minister has been weakened, and if we push a bit more he will give way," said Bruno Julliard of the UNEF student union.

The CPE is intended to encourage employers to take on young people by removing the fear that they could be stuck with a costly long-term commitment if the worker proves unsuitable or if economic conditions deteriorate.

But opponents — who include all the left-wing political parties — argue that the contract will be used for cheap-rate labour and make it harder for young people to get long-term employment.

The protest movement brought hundreds of thousands onto the streets last Tuesday, followed by sit-ins and strikes and most of France's 85 universities.

France has one of Europe's highest youth unemployment rates, with 23 percent of all young jobseekers out of work and one in two in some of the poor high-immigration city suburbs that were hit by November's riots.

"As head of government can I seriously not take account of this situation of insecurity for young people, which has been getting worse for 20 years now. Can we sit there without doing anything in response?" Villepin said in his television interview.

Newspapers reacted to the latest developments according to political allegiance.

The left-wing Libération said that Villepin was "on a tight-rope .... By digging in his heels he is playing high stakes — not just for his own future but for the future of social dialogue in this country."

But the right-wing Le Figaro said the demonstrators were France's true conservatives "because they want nothing to change and defend the status quo."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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