As Euro 2016 heats up, so do France's anti-labour protests
President Francois Hollande is under serious pressure these days. The Euro 2016 tournament being held in France is only a week old begun and, already, major clashes have broken out between English and Russian fans. Besides this, a major terror attack in the country was averted and security forces are on the lookout for more.
While all of this is taking place, the anti-labour law protests have refused to die down either. Instead, they are growing more pitched by the day. On Tuesday, 14 May, Hollande proposed a ban on demonstrations in France.
Protests had also taken place during the recently concluded Roland Garros tournament.
According to his spokesman Stephane Le Foll, Hollande told a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday that "at a time when France is hosting the Euro 2016 [football tournament], when it is faced with terrorism, demonstrations can no longer be authorized if property, people and public property cannot be safeguarded," reported AFP.
Tuesday was also the day when tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Paris, shouting slogans and holding placards that read, "For new rights". Police cars at the Place de la Republique were torched. The Eiffel Tower was also torched as the staff at the monument said that they too would 'join the protest'. Some protesters, armed with gas masks and tennis rackets even took on a police clampdown, wading unaffected into clouds of tear gas and even volleying tear gas shells back at riot police. Demonstrations have since mushroomed across the country, spreading from the epicentre in France's capital, Paris.
It all started as a protest against France's proposed labour reforms - loosening its complex labour regulations. Unions were angry at the reforms that, if passed, would give big companies more freedom to hire and fire workers as well as extending their working hours. On 31 March, thousands of people - mostly youth - gathered on Republique Square for a night time demonstration. These nightly demonstrations, called Nuit Debout (Standing Up All Night), have only continued since and have spread to over 80 cities in France and even abroad.
These protests are similar to those held in New York (Occupy Wall Street) and the ones on Syntagma Square in Athens (The Indignant).
As Time Magazine reported on 25 May, "Since
Monday, union activists have blockaded some French oil refineries, burning barricades and battling police, and leaving about one-third of French gas stations without fuel."