French labour unrest: Tear gas, blocked roads, president firm

Tear gas briefly choked a Left Bank neighbourhood and truckers blocked highways in Provence and Normandy in new tensions over a French labour bill Tuesday — but the president insisted that he won't abandon the contested reform.

PARIS — Tear gas briefly choked a Left Bank neighbourhood and truckers blocked highways in Provence and Normandy in new tensions over a French labour bill Tuesday — but the president insisted that he won’t abandon the contested reform.

France is facing a tense week of strikes and other union action against the bill, which has met fierce resistance in Parliament and in the streets.

A peaceful march Tuesday by union members that wound through Paris’ tourist-heavy Montparnasse neighbourhood was interrupted when masked protesters threw projectiles, including broken cafe chairs.

Riot police responded with tear gas that rose up in the surrounding streets. A bus stop was scrawled with graffiti in English reading “Tourist go home, refugees welcome.” The march later resumed.

Truck drivers joined in the protests Tuesday, blocking roads around Marseille and the western cities of Nantes and Le Mans. They fear a drop in income because the bill cuts overtime pay.

Marseille union leader Laurent Casanova said the goal “is to paralyze traffic … and block the economy.” Truck driver John Bosco in Vitrolles, near Marseille, said the law could cut 1,000 to 1,500 euros ($1,130 to $1,700) from his annual income.

“I will not back down” on the bill, President Francois Hollande said Tuesday on Europe-1 radio, arguing that the new law is necessary to boost hiring and investment.

“There are too many governments that have backed down, which is why I found the country in such a state in 2012,” he said.

France’s economy has stagnated for years after successive governments tried reforms but failed or ceded to street protests.

A crowd of protesters followed Hollande to a pharmaceutical laboratory he was visiting Tuesday, demanding the law be abandoned.

Protests against the bill have often turned violent. Hollande said those who come to protests just “to break things” would be punished, saying that 350 police officers have been injured in recent weeks and 60 people convicted.

Paris police chief Michel Cadot blamed the violence on 100-150 people, mainly ultra-leftists — a smaller number than in previous demonstrations. Cadot, speaking on BFM-TV, said a dozen people were arrested and there were no major injuries.

Paris police banned 40 people from taking part in Tuesday’s march through the capital, prompting some to file an emergency complaint for the alleged violation of their fundamental right to demonstrate. Nine bans were lifted.

Police are taking to the streets on Wednesday — during their lunch breaks — to protest what they contend is a growing wave of ire against them.

The police chief said 200 officers have been injured — two seriously — in some 60 demonstrations since mid-March.

Hollande insisted he supports the right to demonstrate despite a state of emergency still in place after last year’s deadly extremist attacks in Paris.

“That’s part of freedom,” he said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

EDMONTON — Alberta’s COVID-19-era budget made a hard landing Thursday with an… Continue reading

The expansion of the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre has been discussed for over a decade. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer hospital expansion gets about $6 million in 2021 provincial budget

According to the government’s three-year plan, the project will get $59 million by 2024.

The Town of Sylvan Lake has launched a new contest to attract a new business. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Sylvan Lake offering rent-free storefront space to lure new businesses

Winning business proposal will get a storefront space rent-free for a year

Red Deer Rebels forward Josh Tarzwell is hoping to pick up where he left off last season as the 2020-21 WHL season kicks off Friday in Red Deer against the Medicine Hat Tigers. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Rebels set to host Tigers in WHL season opener

24-game WHL Alberta only season kicks off night Friday at the Centrium

An arrest by Red Deer RCMP is facing online scrutiny. No charges have been laid and the incident is still under investigation. (Screenshot of YouTube video)
Red Deer RCMP investigating violent arrest caught on video

Police say officer ‘acted within the scope of his duties’

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

‘Black box’ in Woods SUV could yield clues to cause of wreck

‘Black box’ in Woods SUV could yield clues to cause of wreck

Team Saskatchewan skip Sherry Anderson reacts to her shot against Team Quebec at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Peterson’s wild-card team edges N.W.T. skip Galusha to qualify for championship pool

Peterson’s wild-card team edges N.W.T. skip Galusha to qualify for championship pool

No-size-fits-all residence approach a reality for Canadian Hockey League teams

No-size-fits-all residence approach a reality for Canadian Hockey League teams

FILE - New York Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist reacts after a save during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers in New York, in this Sunday, March 1, 2020, file photo. The Flyers defeated the Rangers 5-3. Star goalie Henrik Lundqvist will sit out the upcoming NHL season because of a heart condition, announcing the news a little more than two months after joining the Washington Capitals. Lundqvist posted a written statement and a videotaped one on social media Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020, saying it was a "pretty tough and emotional day." The 38-year-old from Sweden was bought out by the New York Rangers after 15 seasons and signed a $1.5 million, one-year deal with Washington in October. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
Lundqvist back on ice, ‘months’ away from deciding future

Lundqvist back on ice, ‘months’ away from deciding future

Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa holds up water collected from Neskantaga First Nation, where residents were evacuated over tainted water in October, during a rally at Queen's Park in Toronto on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Feds didn’t supply enough resources to end water advisories on First Nations: auditor

Feds didn’t supply enough resources to end water advisories on First Nations: auditor

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal's Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Quebec starts COVID-19 vaccination bookings for seniors; those in Ontario must wait

Quebec starts COVID-19 vaccination bookings for seniors; those in Ontario must wait

The corporate logo of Pembina Pipeline Corp. (TSX:PPL) is shown. Calgary-based Pembina Pipeline Corp. says it is "doing what is right for the country and fellow Canadians" by shipping unit trains full to propane to Quebec. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO
Pembina Pipeline posts $1.2 billion loss on petrochemical, LNG project impairments

CALGARY — Pembina Pipeline Corp. is reporting a $1.2 billion net fourth-quarter… Continue reading

Most Read