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Activists face off with gendarmes during a demonstration in Paris as part of nationwide protests against plans to reform French labour laws, France, June 14, 2016. (Photo: Reuters/Philippe Wojazer)

Activists face off with gendarmes during a demonstration in Paris as part of nationwide protests against plans to reform French labour laws, France, June 14, 2016. (Photo: Reuters/Philippe Wojazer)

Chaos Erupts in Paris as Riot Police Unleash on 50,000-Strong Labor Protest

Strikes against anti-worker labor reform shut down Eiffel Tower and city transportation

Lauren McCauley

French police unleashed tear gas and water cannons on demonstrators Tuesday as tens of thousands packed the streets of Paris in an outpouring of opposition to the government's anti-labor agenda.

The CGT labor union, which helped organized the march, hoped Tuesday's mobilization would be the largest since protests launched over new labor standards, which allow employers to more easily fire workers and create precarious, lower paid positions in place of permanent contracts.

"I’ve been to all the demos since March because I want to live in dignity, not just survive," Aurelien Boukelmoune, a 26-year-old technician, told AFP in Paris. "I want the reforms to be withdrawn, pure and simple. Only then will it stop. For the government's sake, they should withdraw the law, otherwise we'll block the economy."

Strikes thus far have shut down transportation and energy infrastructure and on Tuesday the protest closed the Eiffel Tower and disrupted key travel centers as the city also contended with the opening week of the Euro 2016 soccer tournament.

Despite this, French President François Hollande has appeared unmoved by the protests, telling reporters last month that he would "stand firm" by the controversial reforms.

With two additional protest days planned for later this month, CGT leader Philippe Martinez declared Tuesday, "This is not the end. The struggle is far from over."

Paris police chief Michel Cadot estimated roughly 50,000 protesters in the capital while an apparent insurgent of "black bloc" activists reportedly smashed windows and threw stones at the police.

"Police fired dozens of volleys of teargas and used water cannon to disperse highly mobile groups of mostly black-clad youths," Reuters reported.

Activists and union organizers have filed nearly 50 complaints of excessive police violence against protesters since the mobilization began in March, according to the police watchdog, the Inspection Générale de la Police Nationale.

Meanwhile, images of Tuesday's widespread disruption and the tense face-off between union activists and riot police flooded social media.


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