FRANCE PROTESTS: Violence as 100,000s take to streets but Macron WON’T back down
CGT, France’s second biggest union, organised more than 180 marches and 4,000 strikes nationwide, and urged rail workers, students and civil servants to join the demonstrations.
Philippe Martinez, head of CGT, said between “450,000 and 500,000 people” had taken to the streets of France to protest against the planned labour law reforms yesterday.
Mr Martinez, who led the march in Paris, told reporters that the protest had been a “success”. The head of the CGT said that 60,000 people had joined the Paris protest, while police officials put the total at 24,000.
The Paris protest, which took place under high security, erupted into violence when more than 300 balaclava-clad protesters began hurling projectiles at police, who responded with tear gas and water cannons.
Thirteen arrests were made nationwide, while at least one protester was injured, the interior ministry said.
Firebrand MP Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of France’s far-left France Unbowed party, said that the wave of protests against the proposed reforms had been organised to force Mr Macron to “reverse” his decision to loosen the country’s rigid labour laws.
He said: “He must, he can go back on his decision… The French are not interested in defending a liberal world order … the power struggle between the opposition and the government has only just begun.”
Mr Mélenchon told journalists as he marched alongside protesters in the southern port city of Marseille, adding that Mr Macron’s centrist government was trying to “demolish” the labour code.
France’s interior ministry, for its part, insisted only 224,000 people had taken part in the marches.
Hard-left MP Jean-Luc Mélenchon, one of the president’s fiercest critics, said as he marched alongside protesters that the government was trying to “demolish” the labour code.
Conservative prime minister Edouard Philippe said the government would not back down.
He said: “I respect people’s right to protest and I am listening to protesters.
“But I must also respect the wishes of those who voted for the president because they favour his polices.”
The labour reforms, which are to take effect before the end of this month, will make it easier for employers to hire and fire employees, and will give companies more leeway when it comes to negotiating working conditions with their employees.
Benjamin Griveaux, a junior economy minister, said he was confident in Macron’s reforms. He said: “The most important thing is (for the reforms) to have effects on our unemployment rate and positive consequences. This needed to be implemented fast after the election.
“Probably the positive effects of that will be seen in maybe 12 to 18 months, not before. But we are not here to adjust the model, we are here to transform it radically.”