Police remove students from occupied Paris university site

Police remove students from occupied Paris university site
The Associated Press

PARIS (AP) — French police removed students from a Paris university building Friday that had been occupied for a month to protest admission changes that also are causing turmoil at other campuses.

Paris police said the clearing of the Tolbiac Center, a 22-story tower in southern Paris affiliated with Paris 1 University, went “without incident.”

Interior minister Gerard Collomb said in a tweet that “the rule of law will be restored everywhere.”

Students have blocked access or disrupted classes at several other campuses in France to oppose the changes that they fear threaten public university access for all French high school graduates.

Paris 1 University President Georges Haddad said no students were injured during the eviction operation. He told reporters he felt “great relief.”

He said police discovered “more than 10 Molotov cocktails” at the center. He estimated the occupation had caused damage worth “hundreds of thousands of euros” and said the site would remain closed until further notice.

The new system of admissions would allow universities to rank applicants based on their own criteria, which could lead to some prospective students being turned down and referred to other programs, if there are not enough places. French high school graduates are guaranteed free university access regardless of their grades.

Lila Le Bas, president of the UNEF students’ union, called the evacuation “unacceptable.” She criticized the government for refusing to respond to the demands of the occupiers.

“It prefers to send police forces to universities,” Le Bas said on FranceInfo television.

Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said police would intervene “on a case by case basis” to ensure end-of-term examinations can be held.

The university occupations come amid a string of protests and strikes against changes President Emmanuel Macron plans to make in France’s rail, hospital and justice systems as part of his economic agenda.

Thousands of people marched across France on Thursday as rail workers resumed their rolling strikes aimed at fighting Macron’s plans to revamp the national railway company SNCF and open the train network to competition.

Macron has repeatedly said he won’t cave in under pressure, arguing that he was elected last year to reform the country.

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