February 11, 2009
As the global economic crisis deepens, tempers around the world are getting shorter. French and British trade unions are organizing strikes, Putin is sending troops into the streets and Beijing is trying to buy itself calm.
In the cabinet of French President’s Nicolas Sarkozy, there was talk of a “Black Thursday,” and from Sarkozy’s perspective, that was exactly what Jan. 29, 2009 turned out to be. Schools were closed, and so were railroads, banks and stock markets. Theaters, radio stations and even ski lifts were shut down temporarily. Trash receptacles were set on fire in Paris once again, and a crowd gathered on the city’s famed Place de l’Opéra to sing the “Internationale,” the anthem of revolution.
The global financial crisis has already reached France, bringing business failures, mass layoffs for some workers and reduced working hours for others. On that infamous Thursday, it drove up to 2.5 million people into the streets, in cities from Marseilles to Brest and Bordeaux. The situation was not like in May 1968, when France was in a state of emergency. Nevertheless, the country’s unions called the demonstrations “historic,” characterizing them as the most important protest movement to date against the current French president.
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