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France's state of emergency used to ban activists from labour law protests

A demonstration against the labour reform in Paris on 28 April
A demonstration against the labour reform in Paris on 28 April Reuters/Charles Platiau

The French authorities have used the anti-terror state of emergency to ban several activists from joining demonstrations against the government's labour reform this week. Unions have planned two days of protest and called strikes in the air transport, road freight, rail and oil sectors.

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About a dozen members of two far-left organisations, Action Antifasciste (AFA) and Mouvement Interluttes indépendant (Mili), have received orders banning them from entering Paris's sixth, seventh, 14th and 15th arrondissements on 17 May, the day that a march against the controversial labour bill will pass through those areas.

They are also banned from being on or near the Place de la République, where the Up All Night protesters gather, between 6.00pm that day and 7.00am the next.

In the orders Paris police boss Michel Cadot cites a clause in the state of emergency law, introduced to fight terrorism after the Paris attacks, allowing him to forbid "any person seeking, by whatever means, to hinder the actions of the public authorities" from entering certain areas.

The persons named have "been noticed on numerous occasions during demonstrations, notably against police brutality and the labour code reform bill", giving reason to believe that they attend them with the intention of "participating in violent actions", Cadot says.

He also mentions the "weight of the terrorist threat".

The organisations claim that none of the individuals concerned have been arrested during the previous protests.

The state of emergency was also invoked in November to ban demonstrations during the Cop21 climate change conference in Paris and Paris police have issued a number of decrees restricting the activities of the Up All Night protests.

Clashes between groups of protesters and police and attacks on property have occurred on many of the anti-labour law protests and a school student was charged with attempted murder of a police officer in the western city of Nantes on Saturday.

Police are to demonstrate against "anti-cop hatred" on Wednesday.

Trade unionists have accused the authorities of failing to prevent some of the violence in an attempt to discredit their movement.

Strike in air, road freight, rail, oil industry

Several unions have called for days of action against the bill on Tuesday and Thursday.

All-out strike calls have also been issued on separate disputes in several industries:

  • Lorry drivers start a strike on Monday night and have threatened to blockade the ports of Le Havre, on the Channel coast, and Nantes;

  • Railworkers start a strike, which could disrupt transport to matches of the Uefa Euro 2016, on Monday;

  • Paris regional transport will be hit by a strike from Monday evening to Wednesday morning;

  • Oilworkers are to picket France's eight refineries, airports and depots from Tuesday and warn that the refineries may close down;

  • Air traffic authority employees are to strike from Thursday.

An opinion poll published on Sunday showed 54 percent of respondents supporting the protests against the labour reform bill.

Splits on left continue

Political fallout continued with a meeting to rally support for President François Hollande in the northern city of Lille planned for Tuesday cancelled because of the demonstrations.

Former Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg, who quit the government in protest at what he saw as its shift to the right, on Monday hinted that he might make a bid to be a candidate in next year"s presidential election with an appeal to "economists, entrepreneurs and trade unionists" and "all concerned citizens" to contribute to an "alternative project for France".

And the Up All Night protesters, undeterred by a poor response to their call for worldwide protests on Sunday, proposed an international campaign against brands that "behave the worst", an activist speaking video link from Madrid suggesting that it might start with Coca-Cola.

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