Authorities Brace for More Protests Over Law on Youth Job Rights
By Molly Moore
PARIS, March 28 -- A nationwide strike cancelled flights, curtailed trains and buses and disrupted other public services throughout France Tuesday , as hundreds of thousands of students and workers staged the largest demonstrations in three weeks of protests against a pending labor law that will remove job protections from young people.
Union organizers estimated a national turnout of 2.7 million, with 700,000 of those in Paris. Police figures were much lower.
Late in the day, as the protests were winding down, scattered skirmishes erupted here in the capital, leading police to use tear gas against youths hurling bottles and molotov cocktails. Groups of masked hoodlums darted through the crowds, snatching cellphones and purses.
The reality behind the news is always a bit different! My friend went into the center of Montpellier all day and reported that it was deserted. This is a university town of about 200,000 people where at least 25% are students. She enjoyed a calm day of shopping as if everyone else had gone off to vacation. I, on the other hand, spent the morning at Castorama (Home Depot in French) and Jardiland (a garden center) and found myself the lone female in a sea of Monsieur Bricolages (Mr. Do-It-Yourselfers). A gentleman even joked with me about this fact. When my friend and I connected that night, we compared notes and decided that all of the men out on strike were put promptly to work on the To-Do list at home. The last strike, Europe 2 (one of the largest radio stations in France) was calling cafes in Paris to see how the strike was going. According to one waitress, the cafes were doing quite well and selling a lot of beer that day. Oh the French method of protesting!