French Protests Take Violent Turn

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Life in France is not what it used to be. The streets are littered with mountains of trash and there's also a fuel shortage that has led to long lines at gas stations. All of this has occurred, because French labor unions oppose a government plan to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62.

Tuesday marked the sixth day of national protests involving teachers, nurses, air traffic controllers, and workers at oil refineries.

An oil blockade has forced at least 1,000 gas stations to close their pumps.

The strikes have also affected air travel. As many as half the flights at some airports have been cancelled.

"It's very stressful, wondering if we'll be able to fly out or not," said Becky Kaiser, a tourist from the U.S. "Hopefully today is a good day and we didn't wait too long."

The strikes appear to be contagious. Students at hundreds of high schools across the country have joined in the protest as a show of solidarity, but not everyone is supportive.

"They have been blockading the school for one week now," one parent said. "It's a good thing to express their discontent. But the problem is that they don't know what they're talking about. We also have to be aware that there are only five to ten percent of children blockading the entire school, and I find that sad for democracy."

Some of the protests have turned violent. One woman's car was set on fire during a demonstration.

Polls show a strong majority of the French support the strikes, but the fact of the matter is France's pension system is losing money. President Nicolas Sarkozy announced Tuesday that the government will crack down on violent protests. He insists raising the retirement age is necessary to bring down the debt and deficit spending.

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