Million French workers march against Sarkozy

Continental employees burn tyres during a demonstration in Compiègne, north of Paris Photograph: Michel Spingler/AP

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.

Related articles:
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.

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Dissent beginning to spread across Russia as crisis bites

Thousands protest at Putin’s handling of economy while rift with Medvedev grows

Supporters of the banned National Bolshevik party protest against Moscow’s rulers

The Kremlin’s rule is beginning to look much shakier than at any time since Vladimir Putin came to power, after a series of protests in cities across its vast landmass this weekend by Russians disgruntled about the economy. And as the country starts to feel the effects of the global credit crunch, there are also signs of a growing rift between Prime Minister Putin, and his hand-picked successor as President, Dmitry Medvedev.

In Vladivostok, 2,000 protesters took to the streets, with some carrying banners reading “Kremlin, we are against you”, and other people chanting directly for the removal of Mr Putin. The Pacific port city, seven time zones away from Moscow, has become a focal point for dissent after riot police broke up a march last year over car imports and detained 100 people. Saturday’s demonstration, under the watchful eye of the police, passed off peacefully.

Nearly every major city had a street rally, and though most were low key, the unusual scale of dissatisfaction is likely to worry the authorities. The Russian economy has been hit hard by falling oil prices, many oligarchs have seen billions of pounds wiped off the value of their shares, and ordinary Russians are feeling the pinch as factories struggle to stay afloat and companies lay off employees.

In Moscow, a motley band of communists, anarchists and liberals gathered at several points across the city to protest against Kremlin rule. At one spot, a dozen protesters taped over their mouths with white tape, held up white placards with no slogans, and handed blank white flyers to passers-by. Bemused by such a conceptual approach to protest, the police rounded them up and arrested them anyway, and the organiser got five days in prison.

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Hundreds of thousands protest in France

Demonstrators in Nice, France, on Thursday. (Lionel Cironneau/The Associated Press)

PARIS: A nationwide protest against Nicolas Sarkozy’s economic policies drew more than one million demonstrators into the streets of France on Thursday, in the biggest popular challenge to the president since he took office in 2007.

Related article: Huge crowds join French strikes (BBC News)

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China fears riots will spread as boom goes sour

Today millions will leave the cities to return to their rural family homes for the new year celebrations. But this year Beijing hopes the newly jobless revellers will stay there – to prevent a fresh wave of unrest in the cities

They surged into the grimy streets around the factory: first scores, then hundreds, then more than a thousand, as word spread and tension loaded the stale, grey air. The boldest overturned a police van and smashed up motorcycles, then tore through the building destroying computers and equipment. The mood was exhilarated, angry and frightened.

“It happened so quickly … There were maybe 500 involved and another 1,000 watching them. People were yelling: ‘It’s good to smash’,” said a witness.

But the riot late last year at the Kai Da factory in Dongguan, amid the grim industrial sprawl of the Pearl River Delta, was not an isolated incident. It was one of tens of thousands of protests, many erupting from the same mixture of economic grievances, resentment of police and swirling rumour.

The numbers have been climbing steadily for years. But as the Chinese New Year dawns and the global economic crisis deepens, the government fears that mass unrest could challenge its control of the country, threatening a communist regime that has embraced capitalism with spectacular results.

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UK, Europe hit with riots over Israel’s Gaza campaign

Protesters in London smash a Starbucks, throw shoes at Israeli embassy

A London protest against the Israeli military campaign in Gaza turned violent Saturday night as police charged demonstrators outside the gates of Israel’s embassy.

It was one of the largest of many, many demonstrations across Europe on Saturday. Protests in Paris, France also turned violent.

One police officer was knocked unconscious and two were injured in the fray, according to The London Paper. An estimated 300 police in riot gear charged protesters as the crowd chanted “free, free Palestine,” hurling hundreds of shoes over a police barrier in front of the embassy.

Tensions continued to rise as the crowd found more objects to hurl — signs, eggs, red paint, barriers, rocks, etc. — until police began efforts to disperse the demonstrators.

Protesters smashed and destroyed a Starbucks, and the Daily Mail reported that others tried to set police vehicles on fire.

The Daily Mail also published a striking series of photos from the protest.

London police told BBC that just 20,000 people were involved in the protest, but BBC estimated 50,000. The London Paper gave a figure twice that, claiming over 100,000 joined the demonstration.

“We want the British government to take a much stronger position,” said Lindsey German, an organizer with protest group ‘Stop the War,’ in a BBC report. “There would have been outrage from governments around the world if this had happened anywhere else – the condemnation has been at best half-hearted.”

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Protests against Gaza attack sweep across the world

The streets in Jakarta were filled with protesters today (Adek Berry/AFP/Getty)

From Jakarta to London, a wave of protest erupted across the world today against Israel’s assault on Gaza.

More than 10,000 marched through the Indonesian capital and Israeli flags were burnt and trampled upon in Asia as the Palestinian death toll in the offensive rose above 430, including three young brothers killed this morning.

Thirty new Israeli raids struck the Gaza Strip today as thousands of Hamas supporters attended the funeral of Nizar Rayan, the most senior Hamas victim of the offensive. He was killed with his four wives and 11 of his children in another Israeli raid yesterday.

Hamas leaders responded by calling for a “Day of Wrath” to avenge the deaths as the party warned that it may resume suicide attacks against Israel for the first time since January 2005.

Read moreProtests against Gaza attack sweep across the world

Protesters Wreak Havoc at San Francisco Mall

(12-20) 22:32 PST SAN FRANCISCO — A band of demonstrators, many wearing black masks, stormed a bustling San Francisco mall Saturday evening, upending garbage cans and foliage and damaging crystal merchandise at one kiosk.

An estimated 50 to 75 people were involved in the disruption at Westfield San Francisco Centre, police said.

“It felt like random, vague anarchy,” said Sam Cantrell, who sells sunglasses at a kiosk near the escalators on the street level where the protesters gathered.

“Everyone’s yelling,” he said. “Some people started running up the escalator the wrong way. People were grabbing their babies and running away in fear.”

The disruption began around 6:30 p.m. as holiday shoppers crowded the mall on the last Saturday before Christmas.

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Hundreds of Greek protesters clash with police

Riot police clash with demonstrators during riots outside the Athens Polytechnic December 20, 2008. Greek demonstrators threw petrol bombs at finance ministry offices and torched two cars in central Athens on Saturday as anti-government protests entered a third week since police shot dead a teenager.Reuters
Riot police clash with demonstrators during riots outside the Athens Polytechnic December 20, 2008. Greek demonstrators threw petrol bombs at finance ministry offices and torched two cars in central …

ATHENS, Dec 20 (Reuters) – Hundreds of Greek youths fought running battles with police in Athens late on Saturday as anti-government protests entered a third week since police shot dead a teenager.

Students threw stones and petrol bombs at riot police outside university buildings late into the night after a vigil to mark the Dec. 6 killing of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos turned violent.

Police blocked surrounding roads and fired teargas at the youths, who sheltered in the university campus which police are banned from entering. A group of anxious mothers waited outside to escort their children from the building.

“There are more than 600 students and they’re running in and out of the university, throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails,” said a police official, who asked not to be named. No injuries were reported.

Across the country, hundreds of schools and several university campuses remain occupied by students. In the northern city of Thessaloniki, demonstrators briefly occupied a radio station and a cinema.

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Unrest spreads across Europe

Protesters throw stones at riot police during clashes in front of the Greek parliament building in Athens, December 10, 2008. (Oleg Popov/Reuters

MADRID, Spain – The unrest that has gripped Greece is spilling over into the rest of Europe, raising concerns the clashes could be a trigger for opponents of globalization, disaffected youth and others outraged by the continent’s economic turmoil and soaring unemployment.

Protesters in Spain, Denmark and Italy smashed shop windows, pelted police with bottles and attacked banks this week, while in France, cars were set ablaze Thursday outside the Greek consulate in Bordeaux, where protesters scrawled graffiti warning about a looming “insurrection.”

At least some of the protests were organized over the Internet, showing how quickly the message of discontent can be spread, particularly among tech-savvy youth. One Web site Greek protesters used to update each other on the locations of clashes asserted there have been sympathy protests in nearly 20 countries.

More demonstrations were set for Friday in Italy, France and Germany.

Still, the clashes have been isolated so far, and nothing like the scope of the chaos in Greece, which was triggered by the police killing of a teenager on Saturday and has ballooned into nightly scenes of burning street barricades, looted stores and overturned cars.

Read moreUnrest spreads across Europe

Thai government declares state of emergency at two Bangkok airports

Apichart Weerawong / Associated Press Suvarnabhumi International Airport is the site of anti-government protests that have halted flights, stranding scores of travelers.

The action avoids broader restrictions that many Thais had feared. Protesters are demanding the ouster of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat.

Reporting from Bangkok, Thailand — Thailand’s beleaguered Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat on Thursday declared a state of emergency around two Bangkok airports occupied by protesters but insisted he wanted a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

“I do not have any intention to hurt any members of the public,” he said in announcing the targeted restrictions on civil liberties aimed at reopening the country’s main international airport.

By declaring the state of emergency, the government can suspend civil liberties, ban public gatherings and take other measures to restore order without imposing broader restrictions that many Thais have feared.

Thousands of People’s Alliance for Democracy demonstrators on Tuesday seized the newly built Suvarnabhumi Airport, one of the busiest airports in Asia, marooning thousands of foreign travelers.

Read moreThai government declares state of emergency at two Bangkok airports