French protesters clash with police over labour reforms

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Paris—Clashes broke out on the streets of France on Thursday during fresh protests over labour reforms, just a day after beleaguered President Francois Hollande was forced into an embarrassing U-turn over constitutional changes.
A nationwide strike shut the Eiffel Tower, disrupted train services and saw dozens of schools closed or barricaded by students. Riot police flooded the streets and clashed with protesters in the western cities of Nantes and Rennes, among 200 demonstrations expected across the country.
Police said around 10 people had been arrested in the capital, where demonstrators marched under banners reading “We want better” and “A giant leap forward to the 19th century”. Adding to Hollande’s miserable week, a separate strike by air traffic controllers threatened travel chaos for thousands of passengers, while drivers faced more than 400 kilometres (250 miles) of tailbacks on motorways around Paris.
The Socialist government is desperate to push through reforms to France’s controversial labour laws, billed as a last-gasp attempt to boost the flailing economy before next year’s presidential election. But protests by unions and students turned violent last week and demonstrators vowed an even bigger turnout on Thursday. They are angry over plans to make it easier for struggling companies to fire workers, even though the reforms have already been diluted once in a bid to placate employers.
Hollande’s government was still reeling from his decision Wednesday to abandon constitutional changes that would have allowed dual nationals convicted of terrorism to be stripped of their French citizenship.—APP

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