Police said at least 1 million people poured into the streets across France on Tuesday and youths clashed with riot officers in the latest protests against the government's new jobs law. Organizers said the number of protesters was more like three million.
It was the second Tuesday running that unions and student groups had succeeded in mobilizing such numbers. Violence erupted in the central Paris Place D'Italie as evening fell at the end of the largest protest, in central Paris.
Youths pelted police with stones, fighting and using metal bars to break up chunks of paving that they hurled at riot police. Riot officers charged several times, making arrests and driving away troublemakers.
The otherwise largely peaceful Paris march drew 84,000 people, while 944,000 marched in other parts of the country, police said. Union organizers put the figure in the capital at 700,000 and 3 million nationwide.
"Today's mobilization is a new success," said the Communist-backed CGT union in a statement.
A nationwide strike, also Tuesday, snarled some air, train and rail traffic and shut down the Eiffel Tower but lost a little steam compared to a week earlier, reports AP.
According to Reuters, hundreds of thousands of protesters demanded the scrapping of a new hire-and-fire youth job contract on Tuesday in giant rallies across France as unions rebuffed concessions by President Jacques Chirac.
Union leaders said they had matched last week's day of action with more than three million joining a one-day strike and demonstrations that were being closely watched for signs they had peaked after the softer line adopted by Chirac.
Police put the national turnout at 1,028,000, slightly down on last week, with 84,000 in Paris where unions said 700,000 marched. Strike action proved less disruptive than a week ago.
In Paris and the western city of Rennes police used teargas on hundreds of youths hurling bottles and stones in a repeat of violence after last week's rallies. The clashes continued as dusk fell and police in Paris arrested at least 206 people.