Wednesday, March 20, 2019 | ePaper

The Paris riot: French govt can't deny responsibility

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FRENCH police have been accused of heavy-handed tactics after a video emerged showing masked riot officers forcing more than 150 schoolchildren to kneel following a violent demonstration. Many of the schoolchildren cuffed with plastic ties and others with their hands on their heads. The French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner defended the police action because pupils had been throwing gas canisters on to fires started by protesters. "There was a lot of violence and dozens of gas cylinders had been thrown with their taps open on to burning barricades."
The latest political situation in France is hot. Paris endured some of the worst rioting in decades last Saturday. City authorities said they are stepping up protection for famous landmarks after the Arc de Triomphe was damaged last week. French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced that  89,000 police officers will be on duty across France and armoured vehicles will be deployed in Paris. The police have also urged shops and restaurants on Paris's Champs-Elysees to shut and keep some museums close.
Students have been angered by President Emmanuel Macron's plans to change the end-of-school exam, known as the baccalaureate, which is required for entrance to university. They feared the reforms will limit opportunity and breed inequality. The protest movement later gained momentum via social media getting huge participants from the anarchist far left to the nationalist far right, and moderates in between.
The French government though scrapped the plan, the "gilets jaunes" protesters (yellow vest wearing protesters) were not placated. Last week, the movement - despite a lack of central leadership - issued more than 40 demands to government. Among them were a minimum pension, widespread changes to the tax system, and a reduction in the retirement age.
That means, the students' movement has turned into a massive public protest. The French government has partially bow down to the protesters' demand saying that it is scrapping unpopular fuel tax increases in its budget - the original trigger for the protests. broader discontent with the government has spread and protests have erupted over other issues.
It would be very wise for the government if they had tried to dissolve the students' discontent at the very beginning; probably they could avoid such a countrywide violence in the aftermath.

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