Police clash with protesters in Paris over labour reform bill
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French police arrested at least 58 people in Paris on Tuesday as student groups and unions once again marched against contested labour reforms.
Tens of thousands of people rallied in the French capital and across the country as unions and student groups refused to yield in a months-long labour row.
French unions said 1 million protesters had converged in Paris, while police offered a much lower estimate for participation: between 75,000 and 80,000 people.
Law enforcement authorities said that “several hundred masked individuals” had thrown objects at riot police shortly after the march started in the south of Paris.
The French police reported that 40 people had been injured in the clashes, including 29 police officers.
Dozens of storefront windows, bus stops and advertising panels were vandalised on Blvd. Raspail and Blvd Montparnasse in the upscale 15th district of the capital.
Police used a water cannon to disperse a minority of radical, black-clad protesters near the Necker Children’s Hospital, after some of its windows were shattered and sprayed with slogans.
C'était difficile à tweeter sous l'eau... Les canons à eaux il y a 15 min en face de l'Hôpital Necker pic.twitter.com/51s9tkLXWs— PierreTrouvé (@Pierre3D) 14 juin 2016
There were some reports that protesting union members had also been targeted by violent activists after trying to defend the respected medical institution.
Tuesday’s protests were only the latest in a series going back to early March.
Unions have repeatedly called on workers to strike over what they say is the Socialist government’s bid to dismantle existing labour laws.
President François Hollande has pushed for flexibility in firing practices, work hours and overtime pay, arguing that a rigid system has prevented private firms from hiring more employees.
Unions and student unions have decried reforms they say weaken job security and will only increase unemployment.
The government pushed the law through parliament without a debate or vote in May, fearful its bill would not garner enough support from MPs.
The parliamentary maneuver, known in France as “49-3”, is legal but highly controversial, and its use further infuriated unions and people critical of the labour reform.
Protests across the country have routinely turned violent.
A police car was set on fire on the sidelines of a rally by police officers on May 18.
One week later, a young man identified as an independent journalist was left in a coma after a police officer appeared to indiscriminately roll a stun grenade into a crowd of protesters.
The powerful CGT union said last week that demonstrations would not disrupt the Euro 2016 football tournament, but warned that it was not giving up on the issue.