On Saturday, May 1, in Paris and a number of other major cities in France, police clashed with demonstrators. Thousands of people took to the traditional May Day protest, demanding social and economic justice and expressing their opposition to the government's plans to change unemployment benefits. The protesters set fire to garbage cans and smashed the windows of bank branches, throwing stones at the police.
The anarchists who participated in the marches according to the so-called tactics of the вЂњblack blocвЂќ вЂ” dressed in approximately the same black clothes, hoods, and bandages-behaved aggressively. The police used tear gas and water cannons against them. In total, about 300 rallies were held across the country, including actions in cities such as Lyon, Nantes, Lille, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, and Dijon.
According to the Ministry of the Interior, more than 106 thousand demonstrators took to the streets in France, including 17 thousand in the capital. The police made 46 arrests in Paris, and about ten in all other cities. The union activists were joined at the rally by members of the Yellow Vests movement, which sparked a wave of anti-government protests three years ago, as well as workers from sectors hit hard by pandemic restrictions, such as the cultural sector.
The marchers, most of whom were masked in accordance with the lockdown rules, carried placards with the words: вЂњDividends, not unemployment benefits-the income of the lazyвЂќ and вЂњWe want to live, not survive,вЂќ reports France 24.
вЂњMuch more money goes to those who have a lot of it, and not to those who have nothing, this is reflected in the plan for the reform of unemployment insurance, which we want to abandon,вЂќ said Philippe Martinez, head of the General Confederation of Labor (CGT).
The CGT communique calling for the demonstration indicated that France would once again hold May 1, the International Workers Day, amid a health crisis.
вЂњThese difficulties with access to health care are a consequence of the current budget, which is aimed at increasing savings. All this affects employment and wages. Depression and poverty are gaining momentum, especially among young people, вЂњ the report explained.
The May Day march was attended by far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon and far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who plan to challenge the current head of the republic, Emmanuel Macron, in next year's presidential election.
вЂњI wish the working class to get rid of the fear of losing their jobs,вЂќ Melenchon said during a march in Lille, adding that he hopes to return to Paris as president.
Le Pen, who laid a wreath at the statue of Joan of Arc вЂ” the symbol of her party вЂ” in Paris, warned of вЂњcomplete chaosвЂќ if Macron is re-elected. At the same time, thousands of protesters marched through central London under the slogan Kill the Bill against the new law concerning the powers of the police, as well as affecting the regulatory framework for sentences and courts.
Gathering in Trafalgar Square at midday, the protesters marched past Buckingham Palace, the Ministry of Education, and the Home Office, and finally crossed the bridge towards Vauxhall Gardens.
A number of social movements and ordinary residents have joined together to protest the bill, which critics say will significantly restrict freedom of speech and assembly by giving the police, among other things, broad powers to contain protests. During the entire rally, the police were at ease with the protesters and did not make any arrests, writes The Guardian.
However, after the march in a park in south London, a conflict broke out between protesters and law enforcement officers, as a result, nine activists were detained, the police said in a statement.
вЂњWe are very, very alarmed by the government's desire for authoritarianism. This is one of a long series ofвЂќ draconian" laws that the government is introducing that will affect our fundamental rights, вЂњ said Pragna Patel, leader of the Southall Black Sisters NGO.
The British Home Office pointed out that the right to protest is the cornerstone of British democracy, but in recent years, protesters have begun to use this right for destructive purposes.
вЂњIt is completely unacceptable to smash up private property and block ambulances. The Government will not stand by because the rights and freedoms of people and businesses are being trampled on by a minority.
The new law will not prevent people from exercising their civil right to protest and be heard, but will prevent large-scale violations, allowing the calm majority to live their lives, вЂњ the ministry said. Thousands of people took to the streets of Berlin and other German cities on Saturday to demonstrate in honor of Labor Day, with more than 20 protests held in the capital alone.