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Protests against new youth labor law spread across France

[JURIST] French students and workers took to the streets Saturday in protest over the recent passage of a new labor law which allows employers to fire people at will under the age of 26 during the first two years of their employment. 500,000 protesters gathered in more than 150 demonstrations throughout the country and while protests were mostly peaceful, at least 59 people were arrested [AP report] in Paris when some protesters began throwing rocks. Demonstrations earlier in the week [JURIST report] ended in street fights and clouds of tear gas in Paris, prompting police to deploy forces for Saturday's protests. Strikes over the last two weeks have grown larger and larger, and have impacted 60 of France's 84 universities [JURIST report].

The open-ended contract for people under 26 was passed as part of the larger First Employment Contract (CPE) [FAQ, in French; BBC Q&A], and is supposed to encourage employers to take on young employees by removing some of the inherent financial risks of hiring young adults. The law, which took effect last week and was proposed by Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin [official website] has been criticized as diminishing job security. AFP has more. Le Monde has local coverage.

9:17 PM ET - Late reports say that a total of 156 people were arrested in Paris after protests there turned violent again at the end of the day Saturday, with demonstrators attacking store fronts and a McDonald's. Police used water cannons and tear gas to control and disperse the crowds. Several cars were also burned. AP has more.

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