Letter From Paris: The Revenge of the Not-So-Radicals

A massive student strike shows why the French aren't what they used to be

Ah, to breathe the fine air of France!" As he spoke in mock heroic tones last week, Sayed Diakite, 19, a student from the banlieues south of Paris, was smiling gleefully and weeping at the same time. Like hundreds of other young people boxed in by riot police between the Bon Marché department store and the Hotel Lutetia in the heart of the Left Bank, Diakite was choking in air pungent with tear gas and smoke from a burning newspaper kiosk. Amid the uproar, he and his fellow students felt a budding--and maybe false--sense of empowerment. Could half a million young...

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