Hollande threatens to ban protests as violence escalates

PARIS • French President Francois Hollande has threatened to ban demonstrations after violent protests in Paris over labour reforms that the government vowed to push through regardless.

"At a time when France is hosting the Euro (football tournament), when it is faced with terrorism, demonstrations can no longer be authorised if property and people and public property cannot be safeguarded," Mr Hollande's spokesman Stephane Le Foll told a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Earlier, a defiant Prime Minister Manuel Valls vowed to stand firm on the reforms despite the mass protests against them. "The government will not change a text which is already the outcome of a compromise sealed several months ago with reform-minded unions."

Mr Hollande's Socialist government is trying to push through a set of reforms to the labour market in a bid to bring down France's stubbornly high unemployment rate. But critics see the reforms as skewed towards business interests, and strikes and clashes have flared in recent months.

On Tuesday, several hundred masked protesters hurled projectiles at police, who made dozens of arrests.

Forty people were hurt in the clashes, which came with France in the international spotlight as host of the Euro 2016 football championships. Police said 29 members of the security forces were among those injured in Paris, while three cars were burned on the city streets.

Mr Valls blasted the troublemakers, who he said wanted to "kill" police officers patrolling the demonstration, and accused the hardline CGT union, which organised the marches, of an "ambiguous attitude" towards those attacking the authorities.

CGT leader Philippe Martinez subsequently "unreservedly" condemned the violence, denouncing such "mindless" acts.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2016, with the headline 'Hollande threatens to ban protests as violence escalates'. Print Edition | Subscribe