Here's a guest post from an American visiting Paris. It's full of interesting points I think you will all enjoy. I have somewhat edited it for various reasons.
Here is a story that is probably not conceivable in LA. It was on the news last night. A group of Lyceens (high schoolers) from a lycee (high school) near here, the Lycee Raspail wanted to do something to protest vs the CPE. First, they decide NO SCHOOL. Then they (some of them at least) have an even better idea: Let's block the peripherique (highway around the city -- this is where the 'no way this is LA' comes into play. So off they march, led by a bearded guy, probably a teacher, with camera crew in tow; to make a statement. A reporter asks the teacher: 'isn't it dangerous to block a highway?' 'Sure' comes the quick response, 'but in extreme times, decisive action is needed.' Unbelievably, for an American at least, they succeed in blocking one lane of the peripherique, with no one run over or beaten up. The local police show up, but mostly their task is to keep things orderly. The traffic starts to back up, 2km, 3km etc up to at least 10 km. A splinter group then gets the bright idea to block the other side as well. Once again; amazingly, they manage it with no broken limbs. By now the prefet (police commissioner, more or less) has learned of this and he is not amused. He calls in the CRS (essentially riot police). The Lyceens have been waiting for this. They have been picking daffodils just for this occasion. They hand the daffodils to the CRS or stick them in the CRS uniforms. In exchange, the CRS load them into busses. Off they go, singing away--just another day of political protest for lyceens.
How would that work on the 10 or the 405?
Le Monde today had a front page story by an economist who, while not endorsing the CPE, pointed out the sorry state of French work rules and the endemic unemployment that results. Italy, Spain and Germany are all cutting their unemployment rates, but in France things are not changing. Only in the old Soviet states of central Europe is unemployment as problematic. Inside, buried, was a story by another economist, this time highly critical of the CPE. I wonder if the placement meant anything?
To an outsider, this definitely seems like an inversion of 1968. Then the demand was for change. Now the demand is to preserve privileges. Nobody seems to be linking this with last fall's riots (though Villepin says he is trying to increase youth employment) but it seems that the white civil servants and others who already have work are saying 'tough' to the proposal to increase work for those who have no jobs. They definitely do not want to experiment with anything that smacks of Anglo-Saxon liberalism.