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French student protests intensify alongside ‘yellow vest’ revolt

Updated December 07, 2018

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Dozens of people wearing face masks threw Molotov cocktails, torched trash bins and clashed with police. — AFP/File
Dozens of people wearing face masks threw Molotov cocktails, torched trash bins and clashed with police. — AFP/File

PARIS: Around 200 French high schools were blocked or disrupted on Thursday by students protesting a raft of education overhauls, on a fourth day of action called to coincide with anti-government demonstrations which have rocked the country in recent weeks.

Dozens of people wearing face masks threw Molotov cocktails, torched trash bins and clashed with police in several cities during violent protests ahead of a call for nationwide demonstrations on Friday.

Although the students are demanding an end to testing overhauls and stricter university entrance requirements, they have seized on the momentum of the ongoing “yellow vest” protests against President Emmanuel Macron.

The “yellow vest” protests began on Nov 17 in opposition to rising fuel taxes, but they have since ballooned into a broad challenge to Macron’s pro-business agenda and style of governing.

“With the yellow vests as a pretext, we’re seeing all sorts of individuals joining with people demonstrating in good faith, including students, and this is leading to serious violence,” Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer told BFM television.

At least two cars were burned outside a school in Mantes-la-Jolie northwest of the capital on Thursday, while a student was seriously injured by a rubber bullet fired by police in the central city of Orleans.

Officials fear more violence this weekend after organisers called for new demonstrations, saying Macron’s decision to cancel fuel tax increases and other concessions were not enough.

Several museums near the Champs-Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe, which was severely damaged during the violence, said they will remain closed on Saturday, and some schools in the area have called off Saturday classes.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2018

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