Paris Police Ban Union Protest

Paris Police Ban Union Protest

PARIS (AP) -- Heightening French political tensions, Paris police banned an upcoming union protest because they fear they cannot ensure security after exceptional violence at a recent march that injured dozens and damaged a renowned children's hospital.

Leftist lawmakers and union members threatened to defy the ban, condemning the move as a violation of the people's right to protest. The interior minister is meeting with union leaders Wednesday morning in an apparent effort to defuse anger.

The march Thursday was to be part of protests around France and a one-day strike against a bill that makes it easier to lay off employees, extends the work week and weakens union powers.

The bill has prompted months of protests that often degenerate into violence by small groups of extremist demonstrators clashing with tear gas-wielding riot police.

The last big Paris protest, which passed through the Montparnasse and Invalides neighborhoods on June 14, was particularly violent, with at least 39 people injured and damage to dozens of shops, banks, bus stops, a nursery school and a government ministry — and the Necker Hospital for Sick Children, where windows of operating rooms were smashed.

Ahead of Thursday's march, Paris authorities asked protest organizers to hold a stationary rally instead of a march through the capital, so that police could better isolate troublemakers.

The CGT union, which has been leading the protest movement, said that the violence often happens at the beginning or end of the marches, at fixed locations, and that holding a stationary rally would not guarantee security.

On Wednesday, Paris police said in a statement they had failed to find a compromise solution with unions and therefore "had no other choice but to forbid the holding of a protest."

The Socialist government softened the labor bill in response to some union demands but then forced it through the lower house of Parliament without a vote because of leftist resistance. The move further angered protesters.

The bill is now being debated in the conservative-controlled Senate.

(KA)