May 9, 2007 / 4:52 PM / 10 years ago

Anti-Sarkozy protests in Paris, students strike

<p>French President-elect Nicolas Sarkozy (L) speaks informally to journalists while taking a short break while jogging near Delimara, in the south of Malta, May 9, 2007.Darrin Zammit Lupi</p>

PARIS (Reuters) - French police arrested more than 100 demonstrators and hundreds of students went on strike at a Paris university as left-wing protests against president-elect Nicolas Sarkozy continued for a fourth night on Wednesday.

Some 300-400 demonstrators gathered on the Boulevard St Michel in the Latin Quarter of Paris, ostensibly to protest against a march by far-right supporters.

Shouting slogans like "Sarko fascist! The people will have your hide!" and "Police everywhere, justice nowhere!", the demonstrators were cornered by hundreds of police close to the nearby Luxembourg Gardens.

A police officer at the scene said 118 arrests had been made by 9.30 p.m. (1930 GMT).

The protests follow three nights of violent confrontations between police and young rioters in Paris and other cities that government politicians blame on inflammatory statements from left-wing politicians during the election campaign.

Although limited so far, the protests have awakened memories of the violent protests against a proposed youth jobs contract that shook France last year, especially around the Latin Quarter where police sealed off roads late on Wednesday.

Rioters in several French cities have already been sentenced for violent acts in clashes this week.

In a separate demonstration, hundreds of students at a Paris university staged a strike to protest at Sarkozy's plans to reform France's higher education system and blocked access to an annexe of the Paris I Pantheon-Sorbonne university.

"TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE"

Conservative leader Sarkozy was elected president on Sunday, promising economic and social reforms that have alarmed many trade unionists and leftists.

"We are not calling the election itself into question," said one student, who gave his name only as William.

"We are saying: 'Careful, people, there is a program that's going to be put in place that will run right over you.'"

After a long, heated debate in which anti-Sarkozy militants clashed with other students enraged at action that could threaten their approaching examinations, scores of activists prepared to occupy a lecture theatre overnight.

The higher education minister, Francois Goulard, called on the head of the Paris I site to make sure university courses continued and to guarantee access to the annexe's buildings.

"It is totally unacceptable that an extremist minority, showing their scorn for democracy, should try to oppose the enactment of the president of the republic's program," he said.

Sarkozy has promised to make higher education reform a priority and wants to introduce a law before the end of the summer to hand universities power to hire and fire staff, set salaries and manage their assets.

He has said universities should focus more on vocational courses, be encouraged to seek outside financing and be given more scope to expel under-performing students.

Additional reporting by Francois Murphy, Tim Hepher and Paule Bonjean

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