French Group Calls for Spain-Style Street Protests
PARIS - A French group has called for a large demonstration in Paris this weekend to show solidarity with tens of thousands of youth protesters demonstrating against austerity programs in Spain.
Eyes will be on France this week when President Nicolas Sarkozy hosts world leaders in the seaside town of Deauville for a meeting of the Group of Eight industrialized countries. Such meetings are often the target of anti-globalization protests.
In Spain, tens of thousands of demonstrators, angry over unemployment and austerity measures, packed Madrid's Puerta del Sol square all last week ahead of local elections, overshadowing the last few days of campaigning. The ruling Socialists suffered a major loss at the polls on Sunday.
Solidarity with "los indignados" (the indignant) in Madrid has already inspired several dozen French youths to spend nights camped out at the Place de la Bastille, the Paris square where a jail was torn down during the 1789 French Revolution.
Protesters say demonstrations spreading this year through the Arab world have crossed the Mediterranean. They describe the fight in Spain as a European struggle against governments who favor the interests of financial institutions.
"They take money, we'll take the street," a French group named after the Spanish "Real Democracy Now" movement said on its website. "We're being strangled by these austerity plans that are multiplying throughout Europe."
Youth unemployment in France, at about 20 percent, is well below Spain's level of 45 percent, but opinion polls suggest the French are angry at sliding purchasing power as stagnant wages fail to keep up with inflation.
(Reporting by Alexandria Sage and Gerard Bon; Editing by Catherine Bremer)