In retrospect, it was an inevitable marriage: shoe throwing, the political protest du jour, meets one of the world's great societies of demonstrators, the French. (A recently unveiled sculpture meant to commemorate the Czech Republic's presidency of the European Union, which has generated scads of controversy for its stereotypical caricatures of EU countries, depicts France as a nation on strike.)
A group protesting higher education and scientific research reforms in France earlier this week gathered outside the ministry of research in Paris and, in two coordinated volleys, hurled their chaussures into the street as police officers looked on. (A video of the surprisingly good-natured protest is available here—kudos to SciAm Twitter pal yokofakun for providing the link.)
The move was modeled after an attention-grabbing form of protest introduced to the world in December by Iraqi journalist Muntader al-Zaidi, who angrily removed and then launched his footwear at George W. Bush to register his displeasure with the then-president's policies.
At issue in this case is the government's desire to increase productivity from French researchers and institutions by making universities more autonomous and results-driven—and, by extension, freer to meddle with the work of their employees. According to the Science Insider blog, French president Nicolas Sarkozy also wants to transform the publicly funded National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) from a research institution into a grant-making agency akin to the U.S. National Science Foundation.