The ongoing protest at the Cannes film festival by part-time workers erupted into violence Saturday. A group of 50 protesters occupied the Star cinema, blocking market screenings, and were forcibly ej

CANNES (Hollywood Reporter)--The ongoing protest at the Cannes film festival by part-time workers erupted into violence Saturday.

A group of 50 protesters occupied the Star cinema, blocking market screenings, and were forcibly ejected by plainclothes police, witnesses say. A contingent of at least 50 CRS riot police were soon on the scene and sealed off the Rue d'Antibes.

"The occupation was peaceful. Plainclothes officers went in to clear us out, they were punching and using night sticks. They charged in like brutes. Several (market accredited) professionals were knocked over," says one protester.

"It was peaceful," confirms Laurent Danielou of France's Rezo Films, whose screening of "Last Chance Saloon" cancelled by the action.

Several arrests were made, police say. Four police vehicles made a loop along a short stretch of the Croisette past fest-goers in full black-tie attire on their way to the gala screening of "Shrek 2," as they carted off those arrested.

The strikes are an attempt to pressure the French government to reconsider its planned reform of unemployment benefits for self-employed show business workers.

Current conditions require 100,000 actors and technicians to work 507 hours each year to qualify for 12 months of unemployment pay. The new plan, approved in August 2003 and scheduled to take effect in 2005, shortens the period to 507 hours worked over 10 months to receive eight months pay.