Burning things in the streets.
I remember my French classes with Jean-Pierre in college, and how when they raised tuition at our school by a whopping 18%, he said, "In France, the students wouldn't allow something like this to happen. They would be burning things in the streets!", referring to that revolutionary (or whiny, depending on how you look at it) that the French are known for.
It's all true. I got here, and there was a bunch of car burnings. And now, the students are blocking schools and there are demonstrations of thousands of people in response to a law that has been passed and is unjust for the youth of this country. I joined the demonstration in Le Havre Friday with 7,000 other Havrais, and we filled every major street in this town with people, banners, singing, and discontent over the way the government is trying to hose over young people. It was rad. France just appeals to my radical nature, I suppose, and I enjoy the healthy democracy they got going on here.
Despite what you hear in the American news, about 99% of the demonstrations have been nonviolent and peaceful. The few that did turn violent were in Paris, and there was at least one instance where the violence was instigated by people attacking the demonstrators, not the demonstrators attacking people. So no, there are no "riots" here, but people excercising their right to tell their government when they are opposed to an act perpetrated by said government.
Why did I join in, not being a French citizen and all? Well, I am opposed to the CPE. I see it as a way for Villepin to gain favor in the private business sector. Even if he were doing it solely to make France more competetive on a global market level, lowering the bargaining rights and means of recourse for young workers is not a way to go about it.
Currently, Europe is attempting to maintain a balance between the extraordinary amount of social benefits its citizens have acquired and being competetive and productive with other nations in terms of job creation and economy. This is a difficult thing to do, I understand, and there may be sacrifices that have to be made. However, screwing over young people in their first real job and making them pretty much disposable during their first two years is not the way to go about it. I went to the demonstration because I don't think me going on strike will do much, and I feel that by not acting in accordance with my beliefs I am saying to my students, "I don't care about your future because I'm not a citizen of your country, and even though my place here is to educate you so that you can go into the world and make it better, or at the least find a job, I refuse to do something myself to counter something that will hinder your chances."