Near the Lycée Joliot-Curie in Nanterre on Monday 18 October. Photo published by Frédéric Lefret, a local official in Nanterre, on Twitter
We continue our coverage of the protest movement against the pension reform in France with this account from our Observer, who works just next to a high school where students and the police clashed this morning, Monday 18 October.
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Frédéric Géhin works and lives in Nanterre, close to the Lycée Joliot-Curie.
This morning on my way to work at about 7:30 a.m., I saw five or six police vehicles there. They were waiting. I wasn’t too surprised because last week Avenue Joliot-Curie had been blocked by angry young people.
I began work and noticed that, on the street below my office, a car full of young people was doing harsh hand-brake turns. Then, mid-morning, I saw thick smoke coming from the crossroads at avenue Pablo Picasso, close to the Amandiers Theatre.
About half an hour later, I saw 200-300 high school students pass by, some waving sticks. One of them had a crowbar. I find it hard to believe that you can go to high school with a crowbar like that.
[Our correspondent on the ground contradicts reports that the only protesters involved in the confrontation were young people, but also violent trouble makers.]
Photo taken on Monday 18 October by Frédéric Géhin.
So, I went down to see what was happening and spoke to some of the students. One of them told me: "it’s getting out of hand." The girls seemed frightened and didn’t want to get caught up in the trouble. They especially weren't keen to go back to their school. I also saw smashed-up bus stops and telephone boxes. I was particularly shocked by two kids of about 12 or 13. One said to the other: “Go on, break something!”
'The trade unionists and the politicians bear a large part of the responsibility'
These kids think that that vandalism is legitimate action. And that is why I think that the trade unionists and the politicians who called the young people into the street bear a large part of the responsibility. According to the accounts of the young people who I spoke to, one woman in a French flag scarf (seemingly one of the chief organisers) had tried to come between the young people who threw stones and the police.
The police are currently close to the Suez gasworks and the neighbourhood seems calm."
This article was written in collaboration with Paul Larrouturou, journalist.