UPDATES WITH NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS, ARRESTS AND INJURIES
PARIS (AA) – Thousands of people have taken to the streets across France on Tuesday in answer to unions’ call to protest the government’s controversial labor law.
Police said at least 21 individuals had been arrested in Paris for acts of violence and vandalism by late afternoon. Twenty-six people were injured – 20 of these casualties were officers.
The protests came as part of a series of recent open-ended strikes in rail, energy and in other sectors amid demonstrations which have shook the country since March 9.
Unions have been demanding that the left-wing government scrap a contested labor bill – dubbed the El Khomri law after Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri – claiming it paves the way for fundamental changes at the expense of workers’ rights.
Rallies have been taking place in around 50 towns and cities across the country. The biggest protest started at around 1.00 p.m. (1100GMT) local time in the French capital.
Police said between 75,000 and 80,000 people participated on Tuesday's protests in Paris alone. The CGT, one of the three organizing unions, said 1.3 million demonstrators took action across France.
"Is the government deaf?," said the CGT in a statement but condemned the violence which peppered the event.
CGT leader Philippe Martinez said earlier that the Paris march would be the biggest show of strength in three months.
"This is not the end. The struggle is far from over," Martinez added.
So far this is the largest demonstration against the El Khomri law. On March 31, between 26,000 and 28,000 people took part in rallies in Paris according to police figures.
On Monday, 4.5 percent of employees of the country's SNCF rail company took part in an ongoing strike which began two weeks ago.
Paris’s Eiffel Tower was closed to tourists on Tuesday as staff also joined the protest movement.
The French Senate began debating the labor reforms on Monday. Discussions are set to conclude on June 24.
Unions have already called for new protests on June 23 and 28.