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Paris student demo turns violent, four arrests

FRENCH students threw bottles at police and broke shop windows in Paris overnight during a demonstration against government reforms, police said today, ahead of a nationwide strike.

Police arrested four people during the student march, which started late on Tuesday at the Tolbiac university in southern Paris and went all the way to the Barbes area in the north of the city, close to the tourist hub of Montmartre.

"All along the way the demonstrators damaged property. Lots of shop windows were hit by bottles. They also threw bottles at the security forces, but there was no police charge or fighting," said a police spokesman.

French universities have been hit for several months by a series of strikes, sit-ins, boycotts and sieges by both students and lecturers over several disputed government reforms.

Unions have called a nationwide strike across sectors and planned demonstrations all over France today to denounce President Nicolas Sarkozy's economic policies, and polls show the vast majority of French people support the protests.

The Le Canard Enchaine weekly quoted Sarkozy yesterday as saying he feared a repeat of the student-led May 1968 uprising, when rioters rocked Paris and strikers paralysed France.

The police spokesman did not know how many people were involved in the Paris fracas, but one student who said he was on the march posted a message on the website of newspaper 20minutes saying there were about 1,000 or 1,500 protesters.

"Our aim was for student voices to be heard. We chanted spontaneous slogans like 'Paris stand up, rise up!' and 'Sarkozy resign'," wrote the student anonymously.

Higher education is just one of many sectors where objections to Sarkozy's policies have boiled over in recent months, with magistrates, school teachers, hospital workers and other public sector employees repeatedly taking to the streets.

Sarkozy offered a series of concessions after a first day of union action on Jan. 29 brought up to 2.5 million people on the streets, but labour leaders said they were dissatisfied by the measures and called for a second round of rallies.

Recent factory closures have fueled public anger and tempers have risen in industry. Sacked Sony workers locked up their managers for one night last week to demand more redundancy money, while workers at tyre maker Continental hurled eggs and insults at their bosses.


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