Thousands of French protest against austerity plans

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the Paris streets Sunday in the latest bout of European anger over tough austerity plans.

The atmosphere was almost festive, as vendors grilled sausages and protesters marched from the left to the right banks of Paris under sunny skies.  But shouting “resistance!,” their calls against French and European Union austerity plans were deadly serious.

On Tuesday, French lawmakers are expected to debate a new EU fiscal pact requiring signatories to limit their deficits to 0.5 percent of economic output.  But 61-year-old shopkeeper Michel Truquet wants his government to first hold a referendum on the pact.

Truquet says the basis of any democracy is that the people decide and their lawmakers vote on the nation’s budget – not Europe.

The leftist parties and associations who organized Sunday’s demonstration estimated the crowd at between 50,000 and 80,000 people.  Police did not give any immediate figures, but French media estimated their numbers at far less.

Last week, the leftist government of President Francois Hollande unveiled a tough new budget aimed to cut France’s deficit by boosting taxes for the rich and deep spending cuts.

Far-left politician Jean-Luc Melenchon said the demonstration was not aimed against the government.  But 18-year-old Virgile Leblanc said he was deeply disappointed in President Hollande, who came to power in May partly by downplaying austerity and promising to inject growth into France’s ailing economy.

French president Francois Hollande. Photo: test_pour_Kyro

Leblanc said the French hoped for a change from the old conservative government, but President Hollande is more of the same.

Paris demonstrators said they felt solidarity with other struggling residents of the 17-nation eurozone.  Greeks and Spanish have also taken to the streets in recent days to vent their anger against new doses of austerity.  Protests also took place in Brussels.

(Photo: Rudy Tiben/