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France: uprising against the labour law

It’s been kicking off all around France against the government’s attempts to introduce the so-called ‘El Khomri’ labour law, or ‘loi travail’. This piece of legislation is an all-round shit deal for workers, and involves such policies such as extending the working week up to 46 hours, from the current official 36 hours, and enabling companies to sack workers with minimal justification. Since protests began, the government has backtracked on a number aspects of the law, like a proposed cap on the amount of compensation an employer must pay to unfairly dismissed workers.

It seems that the students, who have played a major part in the resistance to the law, know very well what it takes to achieve results. Not a-b marches or shortlived occupations, but disorder, chaos, sabotage, property damage, disruption to transport systems, reprisals for state repression, joining the dots between apparently separate ‘issues’, and sustained struggle.

Here’s a bit of a run down of what’s been happening in France this past month in response to the ‘loi travail’, translated from Cette SemaineAttaque and Paris-Luttes.

9th March

In Bordeaux, dozens of people opted for immediate and direct action following a student assembly, and trashed a Bordeaux University building. According to the mainstream media, all the computers were destroyed, the doors had been kicked in and the walls graffitied. The instruments in the music hall were also destroyed. Money and files had been taken, damage in total estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of Euros. This action was part of a wave of demos that took place across the country that day.

22nd March

In Paris, an action was carried out on the Centre Pierre-Mendès-France de Tolbiac, at Paris-I-Panthéon Sorbonne university. The following translation of their communiqué comes fromInsurrection News:

University of Tolbiac, March 22, an occupation of the N lecture hall is planned to hold a general assembly, but cops, security guards and management are all here to prevent it. In a wink, all of them disappear and the door of the lecture hall opens miraculously. We now understand that opportunists of the movement negotiated behind the backs of all. Like what, there are no miracles. It is precisely for this reason that, pissed off, we decided to sabotage these power games.

While students were getting sloshed in their supposedly occupied lecture hall, we decided to have fun in a whole different way. We climbed the 7th floor to ransack administration offices, cutting cables, throwing various liquids on various electronic devices, administrative papers are destroyed and two computers are stolen to be quietly destroyed.

This is the realization of a precise will to not be limited to speaking out, to general assemblies, or demos (whether at 11 or 13:30), but to counter any form of collusion with power, all powers.

Let’s prevent the law from working.

Some enraged of another 22 March.”

Meanwhile, in Rennes, university students disrupted traffic for more than an hour by occupying the train tracks, causing the electrical supply to the line to be cut. After being pushed off by the cops, hundreds went and blockaded a road with burning barricades instead.

24th March

Thousands of sixth form and university students and others took to the streets across France, with demos ascending into disorder in Nantes, Paris and Rouen. In Paris, the entrances of colleges and universities were blockaded. Cars were burnt and cops were injured. The demo was infiltrated by large numbers of undercover officers, who, the footage below will show, got their arses kicked.

In Rennes, an unofficial demo drew several thousand people and turned into a battle with the police. According to the mainstream media, the police seized bins containing rocks, metal bars and helmets. A bourgeois clothes boutique was looted, resulting in a loss of 100s of Euros. Other stores were attacked and graffittied, and a cop car was damaged.

Fights with cops flared up in Nantes, where students used barricades to block a tramline.

Riots also broke out on an unstewarded demo in Gisors, Normandy, with a supermarket and a homeware chain store looted and various other properties vandalised.

In Rouen, Le Havre and Caen, protestors, including dockers, blocked the streets with burning tyres or other barricades, causing disruption to traffic.

The windows of one of the CGT’s Paris offices were smashed in after the union’s stewards reportedly beat, gassed, and handed people over to the police on the demo earlier in the day.

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Friday 25th March

A student demo in Paris resulted in a police station in the XIXe arrondissement getting it’s windows smashed and the words ‘death to cops’ graffitied on the building, while the police were forced to retreat inside. This was a reprisal for the police violence on the demo the previous day, particularly after a video showing the cops brutally punching young black protestor while he was being arrested went viral. The police station was forced to close for the rest of the day, and another police station on the Xe arrondissement was also attacked.

Some 150 sixth form students forced their way into and looted two Franprix supermarkets, before taking the loot to migrants and homeless people in Stalingrad.

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Sunday 29th March

In Rennes, over 100 students invaded the motorway and blocked a bypass with a burning barricade for 45 minutes.

The metro was blocked for over two hours after the alarm was pulled and chairs had been thrown onto a line near the university. A train ended up colliding with the chairs as it seems that the driver failed to respond to the alarm. Passengers were stuck on another train in a tunnel but were evacuated. Unfortunately, 4 teenagers were arrested and admitted to the offence. They are currently on bail but face heavy sentences.

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Thursday 31st March

Another day of national strikes and protests in towns across the country. According to the government, 176 colleges were again blockaded and boycotted by students across the country.

The protests severely disrupted the transportation infrastructure, with many buses, trams, trains and metros out of action due to walkouts.

Riots kicked off in Lille, Rouen, Lyon, Rennes, Grenoble and Marseille. In Paris, the police came under attack from stones, bottles and paint as a large black bloc chanted “Everyone hates the police!”. This is in the context of an extended state of emergency and a ban on demonstrations. Other chants called for workers, students, school kids and non-workers to come together for a general strike.

In Toulouse, a squat had been evicted the previous day which the authorities described as the “nid des casseurs” (nest of the rioters). According to the media, the police seized lots of objects (bottles of paint and acetone, gloves, light bulbs “destined to be thrown” etc.) which they believed were going to be used as projectiles. 19 people were taken into custody. The police claim around 40 people had been gathering at the squat to prepare for the demonstration on 31st.

A demo in Nantes apparently mobilised well over 10,000 people. Shops and adverts were smashed, and two cars were set alight. Nantes town hall and a politician’s office were also vandalised. No doubt the council had only recently repaired the damage to the town hall’s facade from the last riots. Tear gas and a water cannon were used to try and diffuse the rebellion.

The ‘Nuit Debout’ movement called for people not to go home after the demos, but to occupy something in their town. This led to the occupation of the Place de la Republique, Paris, by thousands of people. It has since hosted assemblies, kitchens and parties, and is still going strong.

Arrests have taken place throughout the month, with 77 taken into custody across France for their involvement in the protests on 31st March. More school blockades and boycotts in Paris have been called for Tuesday 5th May.

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France: uprising against the labour law

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