West Bank on the Left Bank

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Over the last three weeks, millions of French citizens have taken to the streets to protest President Nicolas Sarkozy's pension reform plan. The reform plan, which includes raising the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62, and the full retirement age from 65 to 67, is currently before the Senate and expected to pass later this week. Despite rising tensions, Sarkozy has refused to back down, vowing to crack down on the "troublemakers." But with gas stations running dry and trash piling up -- and the rioters becoming increasingly violent -- the French president faces his toughest week in office. Here, young men throw stones at anti-riot police forces on Oct. 19 in Lyon.


Despite being primarily targeted at older workers, France's young people have come out in increasing numbers against Sarkozy's reforms, compelled by the idea that if the retirement age is delayed, there will be fewer jobs for a generation that's already suffering a jobs crisis -- one-fourth of French aged 16 to 24 are unemployed. Above, a student wears protest stickers during a general meeting to continue the strike on Oct. 19 at Nantes University, in western France.


Metallurgists demonstrate with flares on Oct. 19, in Marseille against the governmental pension reform. In Marseille, long an activist stronghold, refinery workers began striking over port reforms on Sept. 27, but workers at all 12 of France's oil refineries have now thrown their lot in with the pension protests.


379 high schools were either completely shut down or disrupted by strikes on Oct. 18. Here, a French high school student runs as smoke wafts behind him during a demonstration, on Oct. 15 in Paris.


Fuel shortages due to oil refinery strikes have hit over 2,600 gas stations throughout the country, and France has been forced to tap into its strategic reserves. Some have warned of coming national shortages if the strikes are not abated. Above, French high school students mill alongside riot police on Oct. 19 at the Place de la Republique in Paris.


President Sarkozy asked for calm and "responsibility," after reports of car burnings and smashed shop windows made headlines on Oct. 18. Here, French high school students chat with riot police at Place de la Republique in Paris on Oct. 19.


French airports have been forced to cancel upwards of 30 percent of flights, and airlines are encouraging their pilots to refuel outside the country as gas shortages worsen. Unions have called for mass strikes on Oct. 20 at airports across the country to protest the French government's reforms. Above, French high school students block the Lycée Turgot on Oct. 19, 2010.


France has one of the most generous pension schemes in Europe, with workers receiving up to 65 percent of their wages. Thousands demonstrate against France's government pension reform on Oct. 19 in Lyon. A banner reads "for the right to retire at 60."


Despite the strikes, French Prime Minister François Fillon has stated that fuel supplies will be "back to normal" in "four or five days." Here, strikers block fuel storage depots on Oct. 18 in Caen, northwestern France.


French truckers have played a particularly important role in the strikes, engaging in "escargot" (snail protests) by driving very slowly on highways to deliberately block traffic.  Anti-riot policemen charge at demonstrators, on Oct. 18 in Lyon.


President Sarkozy has claimed that the "immense majority" of French support his plans, but polls show that 70 percent of the country actually supports the protesters. Anti-riot police approach a burning bin on Oct. 19 in Lyon.


Trash collectors have stopped working in Marseille, adding a foul smell to the strikes. Youth roll a giant recycling receptacle during a demonstration against pension reform on Oct. 18 in Lyon.


There have been reports of broken shop windows and other vandalism in Lyon, but authorities are blaming the violence on "thugs," rather than the mainstream protesters. Police used teargas against crowds of demonstrators on Oct. 19 in Lyon.


High school students file past anti-riot police as they demonstrate against pension reform on Oct. 19 in Lyon.


In Paris, earlier this week, clashes turned violent. Young demonstrators were dispersed with teargas on Oct. 15. 

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