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Paris Transport Strike Halted

June 2, 1999

PARIS (AP) _ Angry French transport workers paralyzed public transportation in Paris and its suburbs with a strike Wednesday after a Metro conductor was reportedly beaten into a coma and died.

Eric Douet, a 39-year-old father of four, died Wednesday a day after he confronted two peddlers illegally selling goods in the Barbes-Rochechouart Metro station in northern Paris.

Despite frustration among thousands of people forced to walk to work, there was widespread sympathy from commuters, angry at a growing tide of violence.

``Enough is enough,″ said Marie-France Aury, a 30-year-old secretary who walked 90 minutes to get to work and faced a similar hike home. ``Where were the police? How many more attacks will it take for action to be taken?″

Confusion surrounded the attack.

The prosecutor’s office said the exact cause leading to Douet’s death could not immediately be determined. Two witnesses who saw Douet fall to the ground as he confronted the illegal peddlers did not see any blows, the prosecutor’s office said, calling for witnesses to come forward.

Unions called for a second day of strikes Thursday. Sympathy strikes were also called for Marseille, Lyon, Rennes and Amiens.

Many commuters strapped jackets and briefcases to bicycles and rode to their jobs, and some traffic jams stretched for miles and miles outside of Paris.

Suburban trains ran sporadically, and buses either crawled along in heavy traffic, or stood still in a sympathy protest. Empty taxis were almost impossible to find.

The government responded to the rising violence by deploying elite police on trains and buses. Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has promised to revise the penal code to deal more harshly with offenders.

Unions, who were meeting with government officials, said the measures weren’t enough _ and many commuters agreed.

``It could have happened to any of us,″ said 44-year-old Yves Rousseau. ``Stations are full of youths just hanging around and looking for trouble. My wife has stopped taking the train at night.″

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