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Protest of Jobs Law Continues in Paris

March 14, 2006|From the Associated Press

PARIS — Scores of students stormed one of Paris' most elite schools Monday, hurling stones and cinder blocks at riot police in the latest protest against a government plan to reduce France's sky-high unemployment rate among young adults.

About 200 high school and university students swarmed into the College de France to demand that Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin withdraw a measure that makes it easier for companies to fire workers younger than 26 during the first two years of employment.

Many students holed up inside the college, and others went out to confront officers. Police used tear gas to try to disperse the chanting crowd.

The law, which will take effect next month, offers a measure of flexibility the government hopes will spur employers to hire young people, knowing they will be able to get rid of them if they have to. But critics say it would offer younger workers less job security than older colleagues and undermine France's generous labor protections.

Tanguy Arrigoni, a 20-year-old Sorbonne student, called the protesters who surged into the College de France a "fringe group" and said they were "not at all representative of the student movement."

"Those guys are really violent," he said.

Police said one officer was slightly injured and there were no arrests.

The protests came a day after De Villepin, hoping to defuse the biggest labor test of his nine-month tenure, appealed on television for support of the "first job contract."

Many students, unconvinced, pressed on with protests that had swelled last week. On Saturday, riot police raided Sorbonne University to oust students who had staged a three-day sit-in.

The College de France is one of the country's top research and teaching institutions. About a mile away, 100 students briefly formed a human chain in an effort to march up the steps of the National Assembly before police calmly ordered them away.

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