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Labor. Protests continue today after days of confrontational protests across France.

France grinds to a halt as labor law puts protest groups on high voltage

Disruptive demonstrations are sweeping across Paris and a few other provincial cities, with incidents in Nantes, Rennes and a parallel procession in Marseille, while in Toulouse a wall was erected to block a fire station entrance.

In Paris, a police helicopter has monitored a tense procession from above. The police have made wide use of tear gas, including against the quiet part of the procession from Champs de Mars to Place Denfert-Rochereau. There have been 12 arrests and tensions between two groups of protesters representing the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) and the Workers’ Force (FO). The police, wearing helmets to protect themselves from possible sharp objects, was criticized by part of the procession screaming “collabo” — traitor.

The protest march was headed by the union’s representatives, together with the security forces, followed by the “anti-flic” group, caught in the middle, while the rear end of the procession was calm, the police being present especially in front and at the intersections. The Parisian event had a participation that resembled the one present at the previous meeting, between 11,000 and 55,000 participants, depending on the sources (the police or the unions).

The focus remained on stopping the new labor law, or Loi Travail. François Hollande in an interview on radio Europe1 said this week that the law is “necessary” and that it will arrive at the end of the parliamentary proceedings (for the moment, it has undergone a first reading in the Assembly without being voted on, thanks to the use of Article 49.3, and it’s now in the Senate until the middle of June, before returning to the Assembly).

The prefecture had forbidden certain activists from attending demonstrations and the Nuit Debut in the name of Article 5 of the state of emergency, but in the morning the administrative judges canceled the provision for almost all of the 40 people identified across the country. In Paris, the protest ban has been canceled for nine people out of 10. The judges of the administrative court have considered that it would have been “a major and manifestly illegal limitation for the freedom of movement.”

Tension is high. On Saturday, in Nantes, an 18-year-old teen was charged with “attempted murder” of a police officer who had been beaten and hit with an iron bar during the demonstration held on May 3. The boy faces standing before the Court d’Assizes. In Rennes, on Tuesday, there was a first sentencing to six months in prison for a young protester. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has stated: “The right to protest is sacred, but there isn’t a right to break everything.” In the Assembly, Prime Minister Manuel Valls defended the El Khomri law, calling it “indispensable.”

The CGT and the FO are pushing for the law to be withdrawn. “The strikes must be generalized,” Philippe Martinez, ex-secretary of the General Confederation of Labor, said on Tuesday. In this way, it was an admission that the general strike is still far away. Martinez, leading the Paris procession, accused Holland of “flexing his muscles” in front of the workers just for electoral purposes in sight of the 2017 presidential elections.

There have been strikes in the various industrial sectors. The truck drivers started overnight between Monday and Tuesday, blocking access to certain cities, between Bordeaux and Le Havre. There were also strikes in railways, maritime sector and in airports.

On Wednesday, police officers held protests in Paris and other cities against those screaming “everybody hates the cops.” In Paris, the far-right police union held a meeting in the symbolic Place de la Republique, where the Nuit Debout movement, which has promised a counter-protest, is concentrated.

Today will be another day of protests in all of France. The arm wrestle continues. Strikes have been confirmed at the railways and airports.

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