France: Police use tear gas as teachers and students rally
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Emmanuel Macron’s chances of re-election hang in the balance after tens of thousands of French teachers carried out the largest education strike in nearly two decades. Tens of thousands of teachers took part in the one-day strike. This amounts to as many as 75 percent of all primary school teachers as well as 62 percent of secondary school teachers, according to trade unions.
In a rare show of unity with teachers, France’s largest parents’ group, the FCPE, supported the strike, encouraging parents to keep their children home on Thursday this week.
Rodrigo Arenas, the co-president of the FCPE, told Le Monde: “Just keeping the school’s doors open isn’t enough.”
Education officials and parents are furious at education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer and his inaction over providing resources to schools to adequately deal with the pandemic.
There were over 100 protests across France on Thursday, prompting half of the primary schools to close.
In Paris alone, the strikes shut down 200 schools.
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Video footage from the strike day showed clashes between police officers and students in Nantes and Paris.
Police officers used tear gas against the students after garbage bins were set alight and used as street barricades.
Even some French teachers were met by riot police teargas while out striking.
One clip online showed police officers beat and taser students outside Colbert High School in Paris.
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Bernard Valin, a member of France’s main trade union in the educational sector, warned President Macron that the strike “was a movement that could last”.
The strike humiliated President Macron after previously boasted that one of France’s greatest successes during the pandemic had been to keep schools open.
The education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer echoed this, saying: “France is the country that kept its schools open the most.”
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President Macron and his education minister infuriated parents and teachers after Mr Blanquer dismissed those protesting as “striking against the virus”.
France has been hit by a fifth wave of Covid infections, with more than 305,000 daily cases reported on Thursday, driven by a sharp rise in the Omicron variant.
Valérie Pécresse, who is President Macron’s key challenger in the presidential election, accused the French leader of disorder and chaos.
President Macron is facing growing divisions over Covid rules in the country after his proposed vaccine pass was delayed yet again, amid ongoing street demonstrations.
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