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.

Just Posted

Carbon pricing is most efficient way to cut emissions, Canadian Chamber says

OTTAWA — Canada’s largest business group has endorsed a carbon tax as… Continue reading

Tory senators stalling laws for political advantage, Independents say

OTTAWA — Conservative senators are being accused of deliberately stalling Liberal government… Continue reading

Police across Canada probe bomb threats as U.S. authorities dismiss ‘hoax’

TORONTO — Police forces in cities across Canada investigated multiple bomb threats… Continue reading

Man accused of manslaughter in fatal collision testifies he was cut off

A Delburne man accused of causing a fatal collision said he was… Continue reading

Fashion Fridays: How to change your beauty routine

Kim XO, lets you in on her style secrets each Fashion Friday on the Black Press Media Network

Barry Cooper: Separation has become a real possibility, thanks to Ottawa’s abuses

In the past couple of weeks, a retired senior oil executive, Gwyn… Continue reading

Sex assault trial for former gymnastics coach resumes in Sarnia

SARNIA, Ont. — The trial of a former high-ranking gymnastics coach accused… Continue reading

Victims of former ski coach Charest say they were ‘sacrificed’ by Alpine Canada

MONTREAL — A lawsuit filed Wednesday against Alpine Canada by three victims… Continue reading

Emily Blunt on the ‘daunting’ task of playing Mary Poppins

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Emily Blunt loves a challenge, and in the… Continue reading

Tommy Chong says Canada’s weed legalization has kept ‘underground market alive’

TORONTO — Tommy Chong has a pass, man. While some Canadians who… Continue reading

Apple deepens Austin ties, expands operations east and west

AUSTIN, Texas — Apple will build a $1 billion campus in Austin,… Continue reading

Trump comments upend U.S. approach to Huawei, trade talks

WASHINGTON — The United States and China have taken pains this week… Continue reading

Most Read