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Paris Cops Shut Down Sorbonne Students Protest

I sure hope no youths were hurt.

From Saudi-owned Reuters:

Police guard Place de la Sorbonne in front of La Sorbonne University in Paris after it was evacuated, March 11, 2006. French riot police used tear gas to break up a three-day sit-in at the university on Saturday as angry students threatened a mounting challenge to government labour reforms.

French police storm Sorbonne to halt protest

Sat Mar 11, 2006

By Tim Hepher and Dominique Rodriguez

PARIS (Reuters) – French riot police used tear gas to break up a three-day sit-in at Paris's Sorbonne university on Saturday, stirring up memories of May 1968, as angry students threatened a mounting challenge to government labor reforms.

Students had occupied the faculty, the center of France's 1968 student riots, since Wednesday to protest against the youth jobs plan, which has sent conservative Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's popularity tumbling.

French media said Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy had cut short a trip to the French West Indies because of the protests, the worst disturbances since weeks of suburban riots ending in November focused attention on poverty and led to curfews.

Police stormed the Sorbonne just before 4 a.m. (0300 GMT), forcing out around 200 students staging the protest and arresting 11 people, a police spokesman said.

Two people were being treated for minor injuries including a photographer who was struck as demonstrators threw bottles, chairs and fire extinguishers at the police.

Police moved into the university building after students had also blocked off the square outside the Sorbonne as well as the Boulevard St Michel in the heart of the Latin Quarter.

Protesters complained police had used excessive force.

"Police showed violence which went beyond all the limits. People were playing music and they just got attacked in the most incredible way," said Marianne, a 20-year-old theater student.

"Half of us had wanted to go out peacefully, the other half wanted to stay. So we had a vote and decided not to leave, but they came in and made us leave by force," she added.

Thousands of people have protested this week at Villepin's plan to introduce a flexible First Employment Contract (CPE), which critics say will allow employers to hire and fire young workers more easily, with students demonstrating across France.

"We have the impression the government has decided to respond to the student movement with truncheons and repression," said Bruno Julliard, president of students' union UNEF.

"If the government wants to continue using force to wage a battle for the CPE, as Villepin says, then we are heading toward a serious conflict."

Students planned new demonstrations in central Paris later on Saturday.


Education Minister Gilles de Robien said protesters had destroyed books and questioned whether all were real students.

"When I see young people, students, or people who claim to be students, starting to destroy our national heritage, which has been built up over centuries, destroying old books, smashing objects, vandalizing the building, then I think it is right that the Sorbonne should be evacuated," he told France Info radio.

Julliard denied reports that some of the protesters included disaffected showbusiness workers who have orchestrated repeated demonstrations across France for the past three years to campaign for better working conditions.

After fostering a decisive, no-nonsense image when he was promoted to revive conservative President Jacques Chirac's ailing government last year, Villepin has seen his once-solid popularity hit by opposition to the new employment plan…

In truth the French university students do this every year. But usually they wait until final exams time.

This, however, sounds like they are protesting that they might have to get jobs someday.

This article was posted by Steve on Saturday, March 11th, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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