Violence, vandalism move to heart of Paris

24th March 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 23, 2006 (AFP) - Dark rows of riot police emerged through clouds of black smoke, pushing student protestors aside, to battle with hundreds of masked youths hurling stones, bottles and planks of wood at them.

PARIS, March 23, 2006 (AFP) - Dark rows of riot police emerged through clouds of black smoke, pushing student protestors aside, to battle with hundreds of masked youths hurling stones, bottles and planks of wood at them.

The scenes of chaos and violence were not in the poor, neglected Paris suburbs where violent riots broke out last year, but in one of the capital's smartest neighbourhoods, only steps away from the stately Invalides esplanade and government ministries.

Some with blood on their faces, others crying from tear gas heavy in the night air, students and youths watched as their protest over a controversial government labour law was taken over by gangs of masked vandals.

The gangs even went after some of the student protesters, stealing their mobile telephones and transforming the mass political and social protest into a violent riot.

Several young women were thrown to the ground and kicked after resisting robbery.

Near Invalides, dozens of rioters tried to flip over vehicles in front of firefighters as they attempted to reach two cars and a shop that were set ablaze near the river Seine.

As police charged around him, Baptiste, from a northern Paris suburb, said: "Violence is the only way of making yourself heard."

The 23-year-old said he was not demonstrating against the jobs contract, simply attending to show his discontent with the French system.

"In any case no one really knows what the (youth jobs programme) is, it's just a way of conning young people. Well, if they want to have a go at us, we'll have a go back."

Cydh, a 23-year-old French student born in Republic of Congo, said the increasing violence demonstrated a serious failure to integrate immigrants into French society.

"The French nation should concentrate on these young immigrants whose history is not taught in books and who feel that France doesn't like them," he said.

Among the thousands of students who had marched through the capital, many condemned the violence that ended the day, but said they too felt a raging discontent that has pitted youth against the government and its efforts to spearhead labour law changes.

"The rioters have nothing to do with us, but if it continues, we'll fight beside them," said 21-year-old Camille.

"Frankly, we'll get to the same point (of frustration) too. We're demonstrating but it's not achieving anything."

Hours after the first protesters tramped onto the lawn, riot police managed to push the youths back towards the Seine and away from the posh district of ministries and foreign missions. But the toll was heavy from a day of disorder: 60 injured, including 27 police officers, and one 21-year-old hospitalized with serious head injuries.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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