More than a million angry French workers took to the streets Thursday in a nationwide strike to force President Nicolas Sarkozy to boost wages and protect jobs as the economic crisis deepens.
“Sarkozy has to take from the billionaires and give a bit back to the poor,” said teacher Jean-Baptiste Voltuain, echoing mounting calls for the right-wing government to boost social spending by hiking taxes on the rich.
Voltuain was one of the marchers at a rally in Paris which was fronted by the leaders of France’s eight main unions as it snaked its way through the east of the city in warm spring sunshine.
The CGT union said three million people took part in protests across the country, but police put the number at 1.2 million.
– France braced for huge street protests over economic crisis (Guardian)
– Sarkozy warned of ‘class war’ (Financial Times)
A million civil servants went on strike, officials said, while protestors from both public and private sectors marched in the capital and in Marseille, Lyon, Strasbourg and around 200 other towns.
Riot police used tear gas to disperse about 200 youths who threw stones and other objects and lit fires in the street as the Paris march came to an end at Place de la Nation.
In Toulouse, police used batons and flashballs to disperse around 200 protestors who threw bottles and set fire to rubbish bins in the southwestern city. One officer was slightly injured.
Protestors smashed windows at the MEDEF employers’ federation in Rouen in the north.
But mostly the one-day strike, which polls say had the support of nearly 80 percent of the French, was peaceful.