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Police, protesters clash at reforms demo France’s Nantes

20 May 2016 8:48


French protesters and police have clashed in the western city of Nantes as demonstrations continue across the country over controversial reforms to labor law proposed by the government.

People once again took to the streets in Nantes on Thursday to express their opposition to the reforms, which President Francois Hollande says will be enacted regardless of public outrage.

Police used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the protesters who responded with hurling projectiles. Security forces also made 66 arrests.

The French government says the proposed labor reforms, which focus on maximum working hours, holidays as well as breaks, are aimed at boosting the country’s economy and curbing the high unemployment rate.

Protesters and workers’ unions, however, say the government wants to make it easier and less costly for employers to lay off workers.

French riot policemen run during a demonstration against the government’s  planned labor law reforms on May 19, 2016 in Nantes. ©AFP

On Thursday, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called on union leaders to end the demonstrations, claiming that some people had hijacked the protest rallies to attack police.

He referred to an incident on Wednesday when a small group of people, possibly from a counter-demonstration at the same site, hammered a police car with iron bars and threw an explosive device into it.

“Union leaders need to live up to their responsibilities. If rioters turn up at each and every protest it’s time to ask whether some of these protests are worth it,” Valls said.

According to the government, some 1,500 people have been arrested during weeks of demonstrations.

Some 300 police officers have been injured and a number of protesters have reported injuries sustained during clashes with police.

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