France Erupts as 1M Protest

President promises to get gas flowing again, clamp down on 'troublemakers'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 20, 2010 2:26 AM CDT
Updated Oct 20, 2010 7:37 AM CDT
Sarkozy Pleads for Calm as France Erupts
A demonstrator holds a placard reading "Lady Gaga with us" during a workers demonstration in Bordeaux, southwestern France yesterday.   (AP Photo/Bob Edme)

(Newser) – French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants his striking, rioting countrymen to calm down, act responsibly—and work until they are 62. He issued an appeal for calm yesterday as protests over plans to raise the retirement age continued to rock the country, the Guardian reports. Sarkozy insisted that he has no intention of backing down on his controversial reforms. Cars were torched and shops looted as protesters clashed with police in several cities yesterday.

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All 12 of France's oil refineries remained blocked by industrial action yesterday, and, with a third of the country's gas stations now out of supplies, Sarkozy vowed to hold an emergency meeting to "unblock a certain number of situations" and guarantee public order. "There are people who want to work, the immense majority, and they cannot be deprived of gasoline," he said. The government estimates that 1.1 million people joined demonstrations across France yesterday; trade unions say it was at least triple that number.
(Read more France stories.)

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