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Strikes shut down Eiffel Tower and hit French rail services

President Emmanuel Macron went on national TV to declare that strikes and protests will not prevent him from overhauling France’s economy.

Strikes have shut down the Eiffel Tower and two-thirds of French trains, amid simmering national discontent in France.

Riot police also cleared out students seeking to occupy the Sorbonne university in Paris.

Much of the anger centres on President Emmanuel Macron, but he went on national TV on Thursday to declare that strikes and protests will not prevent him from overhauling France’s economy.

Rail workers resumed a strike on Friday that is set to disrupt travel through until June, but the number of striking workers was down from previous actions, and international trains were largely maintained.

A striking rail worker at the Gare de Lyon in Paris (Christophe Ena/AP)

The Eiffel Tower announced that it was closed to the public on Friday because of a strike by security personnel. Their demands were not immediately clear.

The Sorbonne announced its famous Left Bank site was closed on Friday for security reasons after the Thursday night police operation.

While about 200 students were evacuated, a few hundred others gathered outside, chanting angrily at police, although the incident ended peacefully.

The site was a nucleus of student protests 50 years ago when strikes and university occupations paralysed France’s economy in a pivotal moment in modern French history.

Students demonstrate in Paris (Francois Mori/AP)

Students at campuses around France are protesting against admission reforms that they fear threaten access to public university for all high school graduates.

Mr Macron dismissed the student protesters as “professional agitators” and ridiculed some of their demands.

While the 1968 protesters were seeking to overturn old ways, today’s workers and students are fighting to maintain the status quo — including hard-fought worker rights Mr Macron says are incompatible with today’s global economy.

The 40-year-old French leader said he is determined to push ahead with reforms to the national rail authority SNCF, to prepare it to open up to competition.

Commuters squeezed into scarce trains on Friday and electronic display boards showed disrupted traffic as SNCF workers kicked off a new two-day strike.

Hospital staff, retirees, lawyers and magistrates are also holding protests over reforms by Mr Macron’s government.

The president will go on national television again on Sunday, answering questions for two hours from BFM television and investigative website Mediapart.

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