French students block schools to protest presidential choice

PARIS (AP) — Hundreds of French university students on Thursday occupied or blocked buildings at the Sorbonne in Paris and other schools to express their anger over France’s presidential election.

They oppose both candidates who made it into the April 24 presidential runoff, centrist incumbent Emmanuel Macron and far-right Marine Le Pen, fearing that neither would do enough to protect the poor or the environment.

Students threw leaflets from windows at the world-renowned Sorbonne and chanted “we are all anti-fascists,” and at one point police fired tear gas as they sought to prevent other students from arriving. A banner hung outside reading “Sorbonne occupied against Macron, Le Pen and their world.”

At the prestigious political sciences institute Sciences-Po, left-wing students barricaded the main entrance with garbage cans and banners. A far-right student group posted a video showing youths seeking to clear the barricade by violently tossing garbage bins aside.

Paris police reported multiple blockages and scattered incidents at various universities Thursday.

The protesters include many young people who voted for hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who finished just one percentage point behind Le Pen in France’s first-round presidential vote Sunday but didn’t qualify for the runoff. Macron is leading in the polls ahead of the second round, but Le Pen is very close behind and Melenchon’s voters will be decisive.

Many French voters on the left see Le Pen as dangerous because of her promises to slash immigration, toughen policing and curtail Muslim religious practices; and they see Macron as a “president of the rich” who has drifted too far to the right, notably because of his pro-business policies.

At the Sorbonne, a student who only gave her name as Lola said: “We tried Emmanuel Macron and we didn’t like it, and Le Pen in power — we don’t even want to try it, it is a repulsive possibility.”

“Since young people are concerned with environmental issues, with social issues, with antiracist, feminist and LGBTQ issues, it is very necessary to have a candidate to represent us,” said Sciences-Po student Gabriel Vergnes.

“We now have a second round with only two right-wing candidates who are the enemies of the workers and of the youth, and we can’t accept that, we can’t accept five more years of austerity and pollution.”

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Follow AP’s French election coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/french-election-2022

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