French government condemns rise of anti-police violence amid new clashes

Migrants' supporters face anti-riot policemen to protest against the Jean-Jaurès highschool evacuation in Paris on May 4, 2016.
Migrants' supporters face anti-riot policemen to protest against the Jean-Jaurès highschool evacuation in Paris on May 4, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (REUTERS) - French police clashed with protesters outside a school building in Paris on Wednesday (May 4) in fresh unrest involving police amid anger over government plans to reform highly-protective labour laws.

Police used teargas to disperse a crowd that tried to stop them removing nearly 300 immigrants who had moved into an empty secondary school that was due to reopen after renovation, Paris police chief Michel Cadot said.

"The state is obliged to apply the law," Cadot said. The migrants from countries incuding Sudan and Eritrea had been removed peacefully after police broke through a ring of 200 to 250 protesters, he said.

Four police were slightly hurt, a statement said.

Hundreds of police officers have been reported injured in the past weeks in clashes with demonstrators during street marches across France the country - most of them rallies in protest over a bill that would make it easier in some cases to fire employees.

On Tuesday seven riot police officers were hurt in clashes with masked youths in the Western city of Nantes.

"This is totally unacceptable, with 300 police hurt since the start of the year," said government spokesman Stephane Le Foll. "We will not let this pass."

The primary focus of protest is the planned reform of some of the most extensive and protective labour rules in Europe.

An Elabe opinion poll released on Wednesday showed that three out of four French people oppose a bill that the government argues will remove red tape and encourage employers to recruit in a country where the jobless rate is above 10 percent.

Critics fear the bill will undermine employers' obligations under the current national labour code.

Police chief Cadot is also seeking to tighten the noose on a rolling youth protest movement - called Nuit Debout - that has been organising late-night sit-ins at the large Place de la Republique square in central Paris.

After repeated clashes where youths hurled petrol bombs and paving stones at police, he has banned alcohol consumption and late night music on the square and told Nuit Debout activists to quit the area every day before midnight.