Twelve hours of weekend drama at the Sorbonne

13th March 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 11, 2006 (AFP) - In the space of 12 hours France's protesting students had taken the Sorbonne and then lost it.

PARIS, March 11, 2006 (AFP) - In the space of 12 hours France's protesting students had taken the Sorbonne and then lost it.

Between 4:30pm on Friday and 4am on Saturday hundreds of students occupied France's most famous university in fierce protest against a new labour law that will make it easier for employers to sack young people.

Throughout the night students arrived in their dozens, shaking off the police gathered outside and climbing through windows to join the handful of protesters who had occupied the Sorbonne since Wednesday lunchtime.

Inside the university the aims of the students appeared mixed.

At one point the students voted by a show of hands for an "actively non-violent defence" and condemned "any damage to the university".

Self-appointed "protecters" of the university stood guard outside a library of ancient books, whose door had been forced open.

But later in the night protesters began throwing ladders, fire extinguishers and tables from the windows of the upper floor at the riot police below.

Others sat in the university's magnificent Richelieu amphitheatre and drank wine and champagne from the cellars to the sound of the grand piano.

The Paris board of education told French radio on Saturday that what the students called "peaceful resistance" had resulted in damaged books and broken windows. Education Minister Gilles de Robien said the occupation had been a "watershed" in the long-running row that had resulted in damage to the buildings.

But for 24-year-old Julien, the protest against the new law was a "symptom of a much wider malaise among young people, a way of saying 'there's a problem here, we are scared stiff.'"

Throughout the night, tension rose and fell in the Sorbonne as a series of warnings that the riot police were about to storm the bastion of French learning proved false alarms.

When the riot police finally entered the hall, just before 4am on Saturday, most of the students crowded onto the steps of the Richelieu chapel shouting "passive resistance!" But in just 12 minutes the riot police had pushed them back to the exit.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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