French Protesters Demand Aid
PARIS (AP) _ Thousands of protesters occupied unemployment offices and marched through Paris and about 50 other cities Wednesday to demand increased government aid for the jobless.
Labor Minister Martine Aubry, meanwhile, told the parliament the government has heard the protesters. Late Wednesday afternoon, the state unemployment agency agreed to provide $2 million in urgent funds to the hardest-hit unemployed, mainly to help them pay for housing.
About 3,000 people marched from the central Paris unemployment office to the Finance Ministry, shouting, ``Those who sow misery, harvest anger.″
By Wednesday night, unemployed activists had occupied 28 state unemployment agencies around France, up from 18 on Monday.
For almost a month, hundreds of the 12.4 percent of French adults out of work have staged protests to demand a one-time, year-end subsidy of $500 and higher unemployment benefits.
Some protesters and police briefly clashed Wednesday outside an unemployment agency in the central city of Lyon, and about 100 demonstrators staged a sit-in at the City Hall of Rennes, the capital of western France.
About 3,000 people protested in the Mediterranean port city of Marseille, where unemployment is higher than the national average, and demonstrations were held in dozens of other cities.
The escalating protests have become a serious problem for the leftist government of Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, which has come up with plans to reduce unemployment but has refused to increase aid to the jobless.
Communist and Green Party members of Jospin’s governing coalition have criticized his lack of response. The leftists took power in elections last June by promising to make the fight against unemployment their highest priority.
Over the weekend, Aubry said $85 million would be earmarked for training programs. She also has persuaded local governments to create crisis teams to help the long-term unemployed.