French Protests Over Pension Turn Violent
ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
There was violence on the streets of Paris today, as demonstrators again turned out to protest President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to change the retirement system. It is the fourth day of action in a month. And with much of the country now gripped by a fuel shortage, matters appear to be reaching a crisis point, as Eleanor Beardsley reports.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: Paris reverberated with the sounds of a protest in full momentum today. More than a million people turned out in the streets across the country, and there's a definite feeling that the demonstrators are starting to gain the upper hand. Teenage protestors Miel and Morgan Margot(ph) are sisters.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)
MIEL MARGOT: (French spoken)
MORGAN MARGOT: (French spoken)
BEARDSLEY: Unidentified Man: (French spoken)
(SOUNDBITE OF TV BROADCAST)
BEARDSLEY: Television showed footage of burning cars and confrontations between hundreds of hooded youths and riot police in Paris and Leon. In the town Le Mans, a middle school was burned to the ground. There was high emotion in the French senate, which is currently debating the retirement reform bill, which it is supposed to pass later this week.
(SOUNDBITE OF SENATE DEBATE)
BEARDSLEY: President Sarkozy is in Normandy hosting a summit meeting with the leaders of Russia and Germany. He said he'd deal with the illegal strikes when he returned to Paris tomorrow.
NICOLAS SARKOZY: (Through translator) Everyone has the right to express themselves in a democracy, but without violence. I'm going to have to unblock a few situations because the majority of people want to work and they shouldn't be kept from getting gasoline.
BEARDSLEY: Bernard Viver is an expert on labor relations. He thinks a majority of unions actually want the government to reform the pension system in order to save it.
BERNARD VIVER: (Through translator) But a small left wing minority wants to radicalize this social movement and turn it into a political movement to bring down the government.
BEARDSLEY: Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.