France: demonstrations by school students continue to grow

Demonstrations against the Darcos reforms of the education system are intensifying with more students joining protests and taking more direct action.

Submitted by jef costello on December 11, 2008

Students are angry about reforms to the French secondary examination course, the baccalaureate and also about the planned loss of 25000 teaching posts over the next two years. Today's demonstration (11th Dec.) was called by the school students' union (UNL), the union has called for another day of action next Thursday although it looks as if many students will continue action tomorrow.

In most cases students, although some may have connections to political organisation have organised assemblies themselves and voted on the action they will take. In Lyon, for example, there has been a steady stready of wildcat demos and blockades over the last few weeks, with at least four occupations attempted on Tuesday alone. In Ambérieu (Bugey) students and teachers have voted for strike action and occupied the building, during the anti-CPE struggle students from this town were extremely resourceful and mobile, going as far as to blockade the local airport. Last Friday students left the school en masse and went to other local schools to call out the students there, eventually forming a demonstration of up to 200 people.

Country-wide police are reporting that 15000 took to the streets today and that a total of roughly 30 schools have been blockaded. Outside of the west of France there have been blockades in Marseille and Lille and a headteacher is pressing charges in Nimes after getting bruised while trying to stop students forming a blockade.

The demonstrations are strongest in the west of the country, in Rennes 3500 students took to the streets today while in Brest students fought with police for the fourth day running. Gendarmes fired tear gas at a group of 150-200 who were attempting to blockade a bridge, they responded by throwing stones. Yesterday there were demonstration in: Bordeaux, 2.000; Brest, 200 to 300 students clashed with police; Rennes, 2.000; Orléans, 250; Montpellier, between1.700 et 3.000; Toulouse, 1.000-1.500; Marseille, 1.500; Paris, several hundred; Besançon, 1.000 personnes; Tours, 800; Nancy, 500 and 500 in Strasbourg. In Pau where university students voted for a strike and blockade last week 900 school students took to the streets.

Hundreds of students demonstrated in the following cities and towns: Lyon, Landerneau, Saint-Nazaire, Vannes, La Roche-sur-Yon et Les Sables d'Olonne, Quimper and Nantes where at least 15 schools have been blockaded by pupils.

In related news Bruno Julliard, the head of the French student union (Unef), has reported that President Sarkozy, then interior minister, told him to "keep it up" and "no give in" during the anti-CPE struggle. The defeat of the CPE caused massive damage to Sarkozy's political rivals, he was one of the few top-level politicians to emerge relatively unscathed from the anti-CPE protests.