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A violent protest raises fears

10 injured in Paris as job law opposed

PARIS -- A picnic by student protesters in the middle of a busy Paris boulevard turned violent yesterday when a frustrated motorist burst through the crowd, injuring 10. Outraged students set upon the driver, overturning his car before police stepped in.

The scene in the Latin Quarter highlighted the increasing unruliness of college and high school students leading protests against a new jobs law for youths.

But spring break, which starts this weekend, may succeed where politicians have failed in ending the protests. With Alpine ski slopes and Mediterranean beaches calling, high school students in particular say they will have to stop their protests to vacation with mom and dad.

''I'm sorry to say so, but I think the movement is going to lose steam," said Elies Alexandre, one of about 200 high school students taking part in yesterday's violent sit-in near the Sorbonne University, which has been closed for a month.

''Most people are going on vacation with their parents," said the 15-year-old, who leaves this weekend for a family holiday in Italy.

Students keen to protest have been at the forefront of the standoff over a law that was designed to spur the hiring of youths under 26 by making it easier for companies to fire them. The law was meant, above all, to help those less qualified get a first job, but city students led the protests.

The ranks of protesters could dwindle with spring break, although many older university students say their determination is unbending.

''I could see us still being in this same place in May or June or even beyond," said 22-year-old Romain Calbrix.

''When you work, you can lose your salary or even your job for striking, but what can happen to us?" asked Calbrix, a physics student at a branch of the University of Paris, which has been closed for more than five weeks. ''The worst that can happen to us is that we have to repeat a semester."

A week ago, President Jacques Chirac, trying to end the growing crisis, ordered the contested law modified. Yesterday, lawmakers ended three days of talks with unions and students, saying a bill based on a ''synthesis" of the talks would be presented. No details were given.

Protesters have demanded the law be repealed by April 15, when parliament recesses for spring. But student demonstrators turned to radical tactics this week, blocking railroad tracks, highways, and bridges, and adding danger to the mix.

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