One of France’s most prestigious universities, L’Ecole Normale Superieure, was forced to shut down as students staged a campus occupation, protesting Macron’s plans to increase higher education’s competitiveness. At present, any school graduate is guaranteed a place at a public university, but the sitting president’s government is mulling over the introduction of a more selective approach to address overcrowding and to deal with high dropout rates.
According to the protesters, the government’s plan to change the criteria constitutes an attack on the fifth Republic’s egalitarian tradition of offering a higher education to all.
“Higher education must be accessible to everyone and the government that says that there is a lack of means is hypocritical,” Louis Boyard, president of National Union of High School Students said.
TWEET: This is against the principle of free access to higher education and free for all. A fundamental and honorary principle for France, in my mind.
C’est contre le principe de l’accès libre à l’université et gratuite pour tous. Un principe fondamental et honorifique pour la France selon moi— Lezdi (@RemiDiizzle) 3 мая 2018 г.
L'École normale supérieure de la rue d'Ulm à Paris, l'une des institutions universitaires les plus sélectives de France, est fermée après une occupation par des opposants aux nouvelles règles d'accès à l'université #AFP pic.twitter.com/NHaGaHWrSI— Agence France-Presse (@afpfr) 3 мая 2018 г.
The students have shown solidarity with railroad workers protesting Macron’s reform to make the railway sector, currently monopolized by SNCF, more competitive, for a month now. The railway strikes are expected to last until the end of June, unless the government and trade unions reach a consensus.
“He [Macron] announced that he will not let go of anything. Today we are announcing to him that the railwaymen, they too, will not let go of anything,” said Laurent Brun, the Secretary General of CGT Cheminots union.
Blocage du dépôt Phébus de Versailles ce matin dès 4h30 par la CGT Cheminots Versailles, l'UNEF Yvelines et d'autres camarades. Bus de Keolis, filière de la SNCF, qui tire le statut des travailleurs par le bas partout où elle passe: pour un service public de transport! pic.twitter.com/v2k8HfjvhR— Clément Troux (@clementtroux) 4 мая 2018 г.
🔴Manifestation et grève dans l'éducation, de la maternelle à l'université, rejoints par des postiers en grève ainsi que les cheminots.#Manif3mai #manifestation @FrontSocialUni @Infosfra pic.twitter.com/WHx45t7vMQ— Charles Baudry (@CharlesBaudry) 3 мая 2018 г.
Over 30,000 people took part in the annual May Day demonstrations in Paris, which unexpectedly turned violent after some 1,200 masked people wearing black outfits started smashing restaurant windows and setting construction vehicles on fire. The clashes left several demonstrators injured, while over 280 people were detained; according to media reports, many of the vandals belonged to anarchist groups. The police and the government were subjected to strong criticism over their inability to avert violence during the traditional demonstrations.
Many draw parallels between today’s rallies and the May 1968 demonstrations, which brought France to a standstill, as students began protesting reforms to the university system, with strikes involving some 11 million workers spreading later to factories.