French protesters numbering in the hundreds of thousands assembled in cities across the country Thursday demonstrating against proposed labor reforms they say will diminish workers’ rights.
The protests come amid a national workers’ strike against the proposed policies, which will lengthen the prescribed workweek — 48 hours, compared with the current 35 — and allow employers to fire and hire employees with greater ease, al-Jazeera reports. The bill, to be discussed by lawmakers next month, comes in response to France’s languishing economy, marked by an unemployment rate of 10% and mounting public hostility toward Socialist President François Hollande.
“It’s shocking that a Socialist government introduced this law,” one 23-year-old protester said to the Associated Press.
She was one of nearly 30,000 who gathered in the capital’s streets in a demonstration that turned violent. More than 100 people were arrested after protesters lobbed paint bombs at storefronts and detonated smoke canisters as tensions with police flared.
Authorities estimate that 390,000 people participated in Thursday’s protests; unions place that figure at upwards of 1 million.