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Paris protest march to go ahead after govt climbdown

Update: June, 23/2016 - 11:00
In this file photo, a police car explodes after being set on fire during an unauthorized counter-demonstration against police violence on May 18, 2016 in Paris. — AFP Photo
Viet Nam News

PARIS — Protesters will take to the streets of Paris once again on Thursday after France’s embattled Socialist government abandoned a bid to ban their march over security worries.

But in announcing the last-minute climbdown yesterday, the government warned that fresh violence would not be tolerated after the last protest on June 14 saw bloody clashes.

The violence came just four days after the start of the Euro 2016 football tournament in France, adding to the burden on security forces already facing the persistent threat of jihadist attacks.

Hooliganism at the Euro has further stretched police capacity.

Acrimonious negotiations finally yielded a compromise by which today’s march would follow a short, tightly contained route proposed by the interior ministry.

The marchers will head from Place de la Bastille to the Seine, looping around the Arsenal Basin before returning to the square where the royal prison was famously stormed in 1789 at the start of the French Revolution.

The march will be the 10th in a wave of protests against the government’s disputed labour reforms that kicked off in March, with many descending into violence, notably in Paris and the western cities of Nantes and Rennes.

No projectiles, masks

Protesters will be screened and searched "to prevent them from bringing in projectiles or items for disguising themselves," said Paris police chief Michel Cadot.

More than 2,000 police will be deployed, and around 100 people will be barred from taking part, he told a news conference.

Last Tuesday’s violence saw hundreds of masked protesters and police fighting running street battles.

Police used water cannon to quell rioters who hurled projectiles at them and bashed in storefronts, with 40 people hurt and dozens arrested.

An initial announcement that yesterday’s march would be banned had drawn fire from across the political spectrum.

Socialist MP Christian Paul -- who heads the left flank of President Francois Hollande’s party in parliament -- branded it a "historic error", while far-right leader Marine Le Pen called it a "serious violation of democracy".

After the volte-face, right-wing former prime minister Alain Juppe tweeted: "Once again the government acts in panic rather than assuming its responsibilities. Demonstration of its carelessness."

Philippe Martinez of the far-left CGT union said the U-turn was a "victory for the unions and for democracy".

Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned against any fresh violence on Wednesday, saying: "The French people do not tolerate and will not tolerate any excesses or those who do not condemn them."

The proposed labour reforms are aimed at making the job market more flexible and reducing high unemployment.

Critics see the measures as too pro-business and a threat to cherished workers’ rights.

A survey out Sunday found that two in three French people are opposed to the labour bill, which is currently before the Senate.

Hollande, who faces a re-election bid next April, had hoped for a signature reform to reverse his dire approval ratings.

But pressure from the street, as well as parliament’s back benches, caused the government to water down the proposals, which only angered bosses while failing to assuage critics. — AFP

 

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