french riot 298.88.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
A motorist, angry with demonstrators blocking a street in Paris' Left Bank drove into the crowd of students protesting a jobs law on Friday, injuring 10 people. Furious demonstrators overturned the car and tried to drag the driver out before police intervened.
The incident near Sorbonne University laid bare some of the intense frustration surrounding the government's new plan for getting more young people working.
The incident occurred as protesters disrupted traffic by picnicking on a busy boulevard. They were heading away when a frustrated motorist tried to burst through the crowd.
Several dozen youths turned the car over, tried to kick out its windows and unsuccessfully attempted to drag the driver out before police and onlookers intervened.
Police in riot gear and helmets worked to disperse the crowd. The driver, a man about 20 years old, was taken into custody, police said. Protesters cried, "Killer!" as he was led away by firefighters, visibly shocked.
The leader of a high school student association, FIDL, said he was shocked that police let cars back onto the boulevard, though the protest wasn't finished.
"Unleashing cars on high school students who are picnicking peacefully in the sun is really stupid and irresponsible," said Tristan Rouquier, who witnessed the incident. Firefighters and police said 10 people had light injuries.
A day earlier, students blocked international trains in Paris and a convoy carrying parts for the new Airbus A380 superjumbo to a factory in southwest France.
Trying to end the standoff, French President Jacques Chirac has offered to soften the law. But unions and students want it repealed by April 15 and have threatened more demonstrations.
Ruling party lawmakers trying to find a way out of the crisis wrapped up talks with union and student leaders Friday, and then went to brief the government.
France's conservative government was expected to decide on a course of action in the coming days. Lawmakers close to Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said one possible way out might be drawing up measures with labor leaders to replace the contested law.
"We are moving toward the opening of negotiations," said lawmaker Dominique Paille. Another lawmaker, Yves Jego, said the idea had the backing of many in parliament. But it was unclear whether it would satisfy unions, or even whether it had Chirac's backing.
The law, which would make it easier for companies to hire and fire people under the age of 26, has sparked weeks of strikes and massive protests, mainly driven by fears that the law would erode job security. While most demonstrations have been peaceful, some have seen violence from a radical fringe.
This week, students have switched to more unpredictable methods of protest, with impromptu blockades of train stations and roads.
Many universities have been barricaded for weeks, and some high schools have been disrupted. Friday marks the start of spring break for many students.
Some students pledged to keep up the momentum during the holidays.
"We will still be here, because since we're students, we don't have the money to go anywhere," said Adrien Taieb, a 21-year-old computer science student at the University of Paris 7, which has been closed for five weeks because of the protests.
"This is going to last because we're not ready to give in," he said.