Escalation of violence in paris

No end in sight to the disputes over the employment contract for young workers enforced by the French government

After the demonstration in the afternoon of 16. Last night, after the demonstration on the afternoon of March 16, there were again violent clashes between police and demonstrators, which continued into the night. According to Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, approximately 300 arrests were made in France, 187 of them in Paris alone.

Escalation of violence in paris

Fire on the square of the Sorbonne and Tranengasschwaden. Photo: Markus Born

The demonstration, which preceded the riots, against the contract of first employment (CPE), which allows the dismissal of young workers without notice and without giving any reason (two years on probation), is worth 250 euros.000 (police figures) to 500.000 participants (according to the organizers), on the other hand, passed peacefully. The escalation of violence is attributed by the government to both far-left and far-right groups. During the riots, the CRS used tranengas and water cannons, as well as space vehicles. Some protesters threw smoke bombs, stones and even incendiary devices. A newspaper kiosk and a car were set on fire, other cars were overturned, the windows of some street cafes were destroyed, the pavement of the Place de la Sorbonne was torn up.

Auch Stunden nach der Demonstration wurden Menschen von den Truppen der CRS systematisch aus dem um die Sorbonne herum liegenden Quartier Latin getrieben, wobei kein Unterschied zwischen Fubgangern und Demonstranten gemacht wurde. At the moment about 2500 police officers are deployed because of the protests in Paris, 46 of them were injured during the night.

Escalation of violence in paris

A burnt out vehicle. Photo: Markus Born

Within one week, the percentage of French people against CPE increased from 55 to 68%, 16 universities are blocked and strikes are taking place at 35 others. In the Midi-Pyrenees, Pays de la Loire and Poitou-Charentes regions, consideration is being given to cutting off all financial aid to employers who use CPE, although it is questionable whether such a regulation is enforceable. The unions want to prepare strikes after the day of action on Saturday.

However, student groups are already forming in favor of opening the universities. The threat that if the protests continue during the semester, no credit will be given, even if there is the possibility of a reduction of the course material by the lecturers.

Escalation of violence in paris

The torn up pavement at the Place de la Sorbonne. Photo: Markus Born

In view of the rough rally on Saturday, President Jacques Chirac calls for responsibility and emphasizes the readiness for dialogue. It is clear, however, that he does not question the enforcement of CPE. He regards the law as a "important element of the policy to fight unemployment, which will create new jobs for young people".

Nor can de Villepin be denied an effort to create the appearance of willingness to talk. He distinguishes between the violent rioters and the demonstrators, who are to be protected from the former: "I have demanded from the law enforcement officers to deal very harshly with the thugs and hooligans, while protecting in the highest measure the young demonstrators." That such a distinction was made was not apparent to the CRS law enforcers in the critical phase after the demonstration. With loud drumming on their shields, reminiscent of archaic rites, a veritable chase was organized through the streets of Paris, there were panic-stricken escapes into the metro stations (e.g.B. at Odeon) and through small alleys. Sitting groups of young people were also attacked and dispersed.

Escalation of violence in paris

Protective walls around the Sorbonne. Photo: Markus Born

De Villepin continues to cling to CPE and a real willingness to talk is still not to be expected. He is accused by the opposition leader Francois Hollande of being "after the brutal enforcement of the law" on a "The end of protest" sets. At the moment, de Villepin’s political career is at stake. It will be difficult for him to get out of the self-inflicted situation. Further harshness would provoke even more violence, while a concession would be celebrated by the opposition, united by their opposition to his policies, as a sign of weakness. The riots are apparently also being exploited by right-wing extremists. According to police reports, members of the right-wing Front national de la jeunesse (FNJ) were also arrested as a result of the incidents following the peaceful demonstration.

However, without the onset of a real willingness to talk, the situation in France and especially in Paris cannot be expected to ease and the surroundings of the Sorbonne to once again resemble a university and not a medieval fortress.

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