Violence erupts at May Day protests in Paris as demonstrators criticize Macron

  • Minister: Police arrest 54 in Paris
  • Protesters denounce Macron’s retirement plan
  • Most of the other May Day rallies are peaceful

PARIS (Reuters) – Police fired tear gas to repel black-clad anarchists who stormed commercial buildings in Paris on Sunday during May Day protests against the policies of re-elected President Emmanuel Macron.

Thousands of people joined May Day rallies across France to demand higher salaries and to abandon his plan to raise the retirement age.

Most of it was peaceful, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Twitter, but violence erupted in the capital, where police arrested 54 people, including a woman who attacked a firefighter trying to put out a fire. He added that eight policemen were wounded.

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Clashes erupted with police at the start of the march near Place de la Republique and as it reached La Nation square in eastern Paris.

“Black Mass” anarchists looted a McDonald’s restaurant in Lion Bloom Square and smashed several real estate agencies, smashed their windows and set fire to garbage cans.

The police responded with tear gas.

About 250 marches were organized in Paris and other cities including Lille, Nantes, Toulouse and Marseille. The Interior Ministry said the total number of protesters was 116,500 people across the country, including 24,000 in the capital.

In Paris, unionists joined forces – mostly leftists – and climate activists.

The cost of living has been the main theme of the presidential campaign and appears to be equally prominent ahead of the legislative elections in June that Macron’s party and its allies must win if it is to be able to implement its pro-business policies, including an increase in retirement. Age up to 65 vs 62

“It is important to show Macron and the entire political world that we are ready to stand up for our social rights,” said Joshua Antunes, a 19-year-old student. He also accused the president of “lethargy” on environmental issues.

Protesters carried placards reading “Retirement before arthritis,” “Retire at 60, prices freeze,” and “Macron, get out.”

“The government has to deal with the purchasing power problem by raising wages,” Philip Martins, head of the hardline union CGT, told Reuters before the rally. Read more

Macron won a new five-year term after defeating far-right rival Marine Le Pen in a run-off on Sunday.

Far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who came third in the first round of the presidential election, attended the Paris rally.

He wants to rally the left union, including the Green Party, to dominate Parliament and force Macron into an embarrassing “coexistence”, but this has not yet materialized. Read more

“We will not make a single concession on pensions,” Melenchon said before the march began.

He said he still hoped to reach an agreement to build a new union of the left by Sunday evening.

Unlike in previous years, Marine Le Pen did not lay a wreath in Paris at the statue of Joan au Arc, which her party uses as a national symbol. She was replaced by the head of the Provisional National Assembly, Jordan Bardella, who said that Le Pen was preparing for legislative elections.

In a video message, Le Pen urged voters to elect as many deputies from her party as possible in June so that she can “protect your purchasing power” and prevent Macron from undertaking a “project harmful to France and the French people”.

Parliamentary elections will be held on June 12 and 19.

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Additional reporting by Dominic Vidalon, Jonathan van der Fort, Noemi Olive, Sarah Messonnier and Caroline Bailes. Editing by Angus McSwan and Andrew Heavens

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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