A day of national strikes hit the city of Paris on Tuesday as long-simmering tensions over proposed changes to labor laws turned into violence, resulting in 58 arrests, 24 injuries among police and 17 wounded protesters, reported Reuters.
Law enforcement used tear gas and water cannons to beat back crowds of demonstrators who in turn threw projectiles, with Reuters reporting police estimates of turnout stan ding at 75,000-80,000 people in Paris alone, according to the news agency, labor unions struck the tally at "up to 1.3 million." Unions including the "hardline" CGT joined with employees of state-owned SNCF railway company and a multitude of youths joined the protests.
The proposed reforms "would no longer see the state as the one responsible for labor law and for regulating work hours; rather — and that's really a reform — the company itself would be, specifically the social partners within the company," Universitè of Cergy-Pontoise researcher Isabelle Bourgeois told Deustche Welle. "Underneath the surface, this is about the end of the 35-hour-work week, even if no one has said that ... The striking trade unions are Communist and Trotskyist. They work for the power plants, in garbage collection, at the docks, the oil refineries, and in transport. And then there are the professional unions like that of the pilots."
"This is about many differing individual struggles that are all being lumped together under the general heading of 'protest against labor market reform," she added.
According to the International Business Times, proponents of the changes say they are necessary to increase flexibility and reducing France's high unemployment rate — which "currently stands at 10 percent and more than doubles to 24 percent for young people," reported reported Deutsche Welle.
Here's the chaotic scene that ensured in Paris on Tuesday, from crowds of marchers with banners and flags to the heavily armed riot police who came to disperse them.