PARIS – Some 20 police officers and six protesters were injured in Paris Tuesday as projectile-throwing demonstrators, angry over an unpopular labour reform, clashed with French riot police who responded with tear gas.
Seven unions and student organizations planned the protests against the proposed law to loosen labour rules which saw crowds in central Paris swell into the tens of thousands. Some of the participants later turned violent and vandalized shops and a prominent children’s hospital.
Paris police official Johanna Primevert said that in addition to the 26 injured, some 21 people were detained during the day’s action against the law that is currently being debated in the Senate.
Protesters set out from southeast Paris heading for the Invalides plaza. On the way, a group of black-clad demonstrators vandalized the Necker Children’s Hospital and were dispersed by police with a water cannon.
Health Minister Marisol Touraine called the damage “shameful” and its perpetrators “hooligans.”
Street protests also took place in other parts of France and rail workers and taxi drivers were on strike.
In Paris, the Eiffel Tower was closed Tuesday because the operators said they could not guarantee public safety and taxi drivers temporarily blocked some of the city’s main access roads in the morning.
In a separate protest, Air France pilots were striking to demand better working conditions. About 20 per cent of all Air France’s flights were cancelled, according to the company.
At the Eiffel Tower, an electronic board was indicating “Monument closed – National strike.”
“That’s a shame for tourists because we didn’t just come for the Euros but also the sightseeing,” said Petlev Schultz, a German tourist who came to Paris to attend the European soccer tournament.
“We’ve found out there are strikes everywhere,” he added. “We are looking into finding ways to still experience the beautiful city.”
Mstyslav Chernov and Andy Drake in Paris contributed to this report