Sunday, March 19, 2006

And the beat goes on
French Police Subdue Riots Over Jobs Law

PARIS - Police loosed water cannons and tear gas on rioting students and activists rampaged through a McDonald's and attacked store fronts in the capital Saturday as demonstrations against a plan to relax job protections spread in a widening arc across France.

The protests, which drew 500,000 people in some 160 cities across the country, were the biggest show yet of escalating anger that is testing the strength of the conservative government before elections next year…

Four cars were set afire, police said… [Ed. – Ah yes, the ubiquitous torched autos, a French riot wouldn’t be complete without them; see here, here, here, and here]

Police turned water cannons on the protesters at the Sorbonne and were seen throwing youths to the ground, hitting them and dragging them into vans.

"Liberate the Sorbonne!" some protesters shouted. "Police everywhere, justice nowhere."

In an apparent effort to set fire to a police van serving as a blockade, protesters instead torched the entrance of a nearby Gap store, apparently by accident, engulfing the small porch in flames…

The law would allow businesses to fire young workers in the first two years on a job without giving a reason, removing them from protections that restrict layoffs of regular employees.

Companies are often reluctant to add employees because it is hard to let them go if business conditions worsen. Students see a subtext in the new law: make it easier to hire and fire to help France compete in a globalizing world economy. [Ed. – No, the real subtext is “Damn, we’ll really have to work”]

Youth joblessness stands at 23 percent nationwide, and 50 percent among impoverished young people. The lack of work was blamed in part for the riots that shook France's depressed suburbs during the fall. [Ed. – Right, right it was the French ‘youths’]

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