French minister vows no tolerance for protest violence

By Fatma Esma Arslan

STRASBOURG, France (AA) – There will be no tolerance for those involved in violence during Thursday’s protests against the proposed labor reforms, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has said.

Speaking at a meeting with local security forces in Strasbourg on Friday, Cazeneuve said that the nationwide protests resulted in 214 arrests, and that 78 police officers were injured, several seriously.

“The state will not tolerate those responsible for this violence, ” he said, adding that 1,961 people had been arrested so far in the four protests held in the country since early March.

Cazeneuve said that the perpetrators would be held accountable.

French police have responded to attacks with tear gas. Drones were also seen hovering above the protesters Thursday.

Trade and student unions had called to take to the streets for a “day of action” against the French government’s planned unpopular labor reforms.

The General Confederation of Labor, CGT, has announced that about 500,000 people have taken part in the protests. However, police sources said that the number of protesters stood at around 170,000.

In recent weeks, hundreds of thousands of people have joined sweeping protests against the “El Khomri” draft law — named after Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri, whom opponents accuse of being too pro-business.

The draft law was presented to the cabinet on March 24, having been watered down, and is due to be taken up by parliament in May.

With France gripped by a 10.2 percent unemployment rate, the government sees the bill as the key to tackle record joblessness.

– Nuit Debout: French Occupy movement expands

The “Nuit Debout” or Up All Night movement, which has held mass nighttime sit-ins in Paris’s Place de La Republique and in about a dozen provincial cities for more than 20 consecutive nights, is gaining more ground and has been praised by students, workers, and activists as a revolutionary call for change.

The French Occupy movement has been campaigning against the labor reform bill, and now it has joined actors and theatre and film technicians, who have occupied Paris’s Odeon theater since Sunday with five other provincial theaters.
Organizers from the movement said they would also be joining massive May 1 labor union protests.

*Anadolu Agency correspondent Hale Turkes contributed to this report from Ankara.