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French Take to Streets to Protest Economy


For a second time this year, hundreds of thousands of workers took to France's streets in a nationwide protest against the government's response to the economic crisis. The strike, which has affected French schools, post offices, banks and transportation systems is part of mushrooming protests around Europe as fears mount of more hard times to come.

It was a beautiful day in Paris and across much of France, good weather to be out of the office and on the streets. But the French were not simply enjoying sunny spring weather, they were expressing their anger at the government as layoffs mount and businesses threaten to close amid the biggest financial crisis in decades.

The last national demonstration, in January, drew about 2.5 million people. Protests also paralyzed the French overseas territory of Guadeloupe and spread to its Indian Ocean territory of Reunion in recent weeks.

The latest strike disrupted rail and air traffic, although much of the public transportation in the Paris area was running. Unions that called the strike argue President Nicolas Sarkozy has not done enough to shield ordinary French from the bite of economic hard times. They want new talks with his center-right government.

That includes Francois Chereque of the CFDT labor union, who aired his complaints on French radio.

Chereque says that unlike the January strike when the crisis was largely seen through statistics, real people and real businesses are now being effected by it.

A recent survey show most French are behind the protests. Transportation worker Laloy de Jardin - who was on the job Thursday - is one of them.

De Jardin says today's strike means workers are worried - and she understands how they feel. She does not believe the government is doing enough to help ordinary people cope with the hard times.

Bernard, a French printer, also faults the government. But he is against the demonstrations. He calls them annoying.

The French are not the only workers picketing these days. Greek farmers, Polish factory workers and German autoworkers have also demonstrated against their government's response to the crisis; as have workers in Britain, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Ireland.

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