French University Students Demand More Money, Professors
PARIS (AP) _ Their faces smeared with war paint, tens of thousands of university students across France marched Tuesday to demand more government spending on higher education.
Police reported scattered violence among the estimated 21,000 protesters who massed near the Sorbonne University in Paris’ famed Latin Quarter.
Some demonstrators smashed store windows and damaged phone booths and parked cars, but no injuries were reported.
Tens of thousands of students from at least 20 other state-funded universities staged similar protests around France, from Lille in the north to Rennes in the west and Montpellier in the south.
In Paris, students climbed traffic lights and clambered atop bus shelters, their faces streaked with paint and their foreheads scribbled with the names of their colleges.
Others chanted, ``Let’s go into the streets before they throw us there,″ and held banners that read, ``We need less politics and more money.″
``Students are suffering because of politicians’ misplaced priorities,″ said Laurent Rostand, 24, marching with papier-mache likenesses of President Jacques Chirac and a human brain beneath a sign that read: ``Sold Separately.″
The demonstrations were aimed at pressuring the government of conservative Premier Alain Juppe, who is trying to trim a $64 billion budget deficit this year.
On Sunday, Juppe said his government would try to find more money for France’s 90 public universities, free to students except for registration fees and books. But he cautioned that it wouldn’t be easy under the government’s current spending freeze.
The number of university students has increased dramatically in recent years, but the education budget hasn’t kept pace.
Lack of funding has left some universities in disrepair. ``The whole system is completely dilapidated,″ complained David Williot, a Paris protester. ``We need more facilities, we need more teachers.″
Boisterous protests have in the past forced French governments to give in to student demands.
``We need a good education to get a good job with a good company,″ said Garaix Leon, a 20-year-old engineering student who said he feared joblessness after graduation. France is struggling with 11.5 percent unemployment.