Masked vandals stoned police and set cars afire Monday during a demonstration by 100,000 students seeking better school conditions. It was the first serious outbreak of violence in four weeks of protests.
President Francois Mitterrand promised steps would be taken to address the students' demands. They want more government spending to improve security, upgrade substandard facilities, modernize curriculums and hire more teachers.The main throng of protesters in Paris was orderly. But several hundred youths on the fringes looted a clothing store, hurled rocks at police, beat journalists, smashed bus stops and torched at least three parked vehicles.
Police in Paris made at least 20 arrests, using tear gas and water cannons to disperse troublemakers. Many of the rioters wore masks and armed themselves with clubs. At least 40 policemen were injured, as well as unknown number of protesters.
As the students marched in Paris, about 150,000 others took part in protests elsewhere in the country.
Mitterrand and Education Minister Lionel Jospin met with student leaders and promised an ``emergency plan' to address student demands.
The protests began with student strikes last month in the northern suburbs of Paris after the gang rape of a girl in a school lavatory and assaults on several teachers.