Opposing Macron's neoliberal education reforms and police repression, tens of thousands of students are out on strike, vowing to join up the struggles, reports Jack Hazeldine
Blockades of high schools, militant marches through town and city centres and stand-offs with riot police have been seen across France today as tens of thousands of students from hundreds of schools demonstrated against the implementation of President Macron's neoliberal education policies. These include reforms to Baccalaureate exams and university selection, as well as HE fee increases and the imposition of a civic national service on young people. Paris, Rennes, Rouen, Toulouse and Marseille all saw large protests in the thousands.
This is a significant escalation of barricades and occupations of schools which have been taking place over the last week, partly inspired by the Gilets Jaunes movement, and leading to the arrests of hundreds of students. Today's action has made headlines across French mainstream national and local news.
We have collected a gallery of the most striking images and videos of from today below.
On what was labelled ‘Black Tuesday’ by their union (UNL-SD) which called the day of action, students today also demonstrated in huge numbers their opposition to police brutal mistreatment of school students, such as now notoriously at the Mantes-la-Jolie lycée last week where students were detained for hours kneeling with hands behind heads.
This ‘stress position’ has been vividly emulated by huge crowds of protesting students and become a symbol of defiance to violent state repression and Macron’s attempt to wield it to stun resistance into submission. Today, such protests were also accompanied by the chant, “everyone hates the police”, often directly facing the lines of CRS riot cops deployed by their thousand again by the state.
There has been a strong presence by high school student at some recent Yellow Vests protests - and some of the latter protesters were out today in Paris helping ward off riot police from the student demonstrations.
Not only this, but high school students, are set to join an education strike called for Thursday, whilst further public service strikes are called for Friday and another major day of Yellow Vests protest is planned for Saturday.
Some of this atmosphere on the streets today, of hope in expansive and joined-up struggle, was captured by a student banner in Marseille that read "Lycée Thiers de la Commune / enraged!", and the anti-capitalist chants by hundreds of students in Paris.
If President Macron thought that his concessionary and pleading speech yesterday (with tax allowances he claims amount to a €100 rise to the monthly minimum wage) could help diffuse the situation of an ever-expanding movement of resistance to his neoliberal attacks on living standards, workers’ rights and public services then he has severely underestimated the confidence which has been leant to many struggling sections of society by the Yellow Vests. In Paris, one student march of many hundreds chanted "Solidarity with the workers", as construction workers in a platform above raised their fists.
High school student union representatives say there was nothing in the speech for them, and like many other strands of convergent anti-Macron struggle they have smelt the scent of a politically wounded and enfeebled President. If such struggles continue to combine and escalate the scale of resistance, many among them will hope it can prove fatal for the historically unpopular leader.
School student union statement
Below is a press statement (translated by this writer) from the national high school students union (UNL-SD):
“Today, tens of thousands of high school students have taken up the call by l’Union Nationale Lychee - Syndicale et Democratique (UNL-SD) to participate in “Mardi Noir”. Indeed, all across France, there has been a great breadth to the mobilisations of high school students. The number of high schools blockaded today is the highest since the beginning of the mobilisations. Hundreds of high schools have been recorded as blockaded across the country.
“This huge mobilisation that grows each day is sure proof that the government’s policy of playing deaf cannot endure: young people won’t take it any more. The government prefers to violently repress the demonstrations rather than listen to the demands. However, they are clear: we reject the selection process at University, the National Service, the reform of the Baccalaureate (professional, general and technological) and additionally the rise in tuition fees for foreign non-EU university students. So, as long as the government and its “President of the Republic continues to show contempt for us and avoid any clear responses to our demands, we will not back down in any way and we will continue to mobilise.
“The UNL-SD calls on all high school students to strengthen mobilisation everywhere in France and to continue to mobilise by all means possible, including blockades and occupations. The UNL-SD also calls on high school and higher education students and public education workers to join the strike called by SNESUO-FSU [education union] this Thursday 13 December in order to bring into action the convergence of struggles.”
Gallery of images and videos from today's action
Full page view here.
Jack Hazeldine is an organiser in the People's Assembly and Stop the War.
Based in Bristol, he has coordinated the largest demonstrations and public meetings in the city in recent years: against austerity, in support of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership of Labour, over the Junior Doctors' struggle and against the British bombing of Syria. He is currently travelling between the UK and Catalonia, building the solidarity campaign and corresponding on events.
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