Thursday, April 10, 2008


At least 19,000 school students and teachers have demonstrated on the streets of Paris against a proposed reform of the French education system.

USA Today reports police are using tear gas to quell pockets of violence on the edges of the Paris protest by high school students.

Skirmishes are breaking out between police and demonstrators on the Boulevard du Montparnasse on the Left Bank of Paris. Plain clothes police officers have been charging small groups of protesters. Some marchers have been setting off fire crackers.

AP Television footage showed projectiles being hurled at riot police, as skirmishes broke out between police and demonstrators on the Left Bank of the capital.

The protests are against job cuts in secondary schools. The government plans to cut some 11,200 education jobs this year, including 8,500 teaching posts.

The protest, which began on Thursday afternoon, is the students' second this week and the fifth in two weeks.

One teacher taking part in the rally told The Associated Press that the job cuts will affect quality of education in France.

"We are against the laying off of jobs in the field of education because we think it would be absolutely impossible for us to teach decently to the students that we have,'' he said.

Demonstrators also fear that Sarkozy's overall reforms will erode the protection they get from social and labour unions that underpins French society.

The following is from the Tocqueville Connection.


About 19,000 French high school students took to the streets of Paris on Thursday, according to police, stepping up protests against President Nicolas Sarkozy's planned job cuts in education.

Organisers said between 30,000 and 40,000 protesters took part.

It was the fifth and biggest protest over the past two weeks against the government's plan to slash 11,200 jobs in education in September, including 8,830 teachers.
"We are saying 'stop this haemorraghing'," said Florian Lecoultre, president of the UNL student union.

Students, joined by teachers and parents, set off in the early afternoon from Paris' Luxembourg Gardens on the Left Bank, carrying a large banner that read "Students mobilised against job cuts."

There were some minor incidents at the start of the march, when police used tear gas against protesters who threw rocks and other projectiles, but the protest overall took place peacefully.

On Tuesday, some 8,500 students took part in Paris protests, according to police but organisers put the figure much higher at about 25,000.

A first protest drew between 4,600 and 6,000 students in Paris on March 27.

The protest action disrupted classes in hundreds of secondary schools in the Paris region, and about 40 of them shut down altogether. Police detained 11 students in a suburb after they threw rocks and attacked storefronts.

Education Minister Xavier Dacros vowed not to backtrack on the proposed job cuts that the government has said will be achieved by not replacing retiring personnel.

"We hear the students and they have reason to be worried about their future but it is a lie to make them believe that the school issue is a numbers' game," Darcos told parliament.

"We have to reform high schools and it's not 100 more or 100 fewer staff that will make the difference," he said.

Smaller protests were also held in France's third city of Lyon and in Toulouse, in the southwest. Up to a quarter of teachers went on strike in the Paris region, according to union officials.

During demonstrations on Tuesday, police detained 25 people and three police suffered minor injuries in scuffles with protesters.

Police fired tear gas to disperse protesters who threw rocks and other projectiles at them on Tuesday.

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