PARIS: Police fired tear gas to push back black-clad anarchists who looted business premises in the French capital Paris on Sunday (May 1) during May Day protests against the policies of newly re-elected President Emmanuel Macron .
Thousands of people joined May Day marches in France calling for pay rises and for Macron to abandon his plan to raise the retirement age.
Most were peaceful, but violence erupted in Paris, where police had made 29 arrests so far, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Twitter.
Clashes with police broke out at the start of the march near Place La Republique and when it reached Place La Nation in eastern Paris.
“Black Bloc” anarchists looted a McDonald’s restaurant on Place Leon Blum and vandalized several real estate agencies, smashing their windows and setting rubbish bins on fire.
Police said activists had even attacked firefighters trying to put out the fires. Police responded by firing tear gas.
About 250 rallies were organized in Paris and other cities, including Lille, Nantes, Toulouse, and Marseille. In the capital, the trade unionists were joined by political figures, mostly from the left, and climate activists.
The cost of living was the main issue of the presidential election campaign and it looks set to be equally prominent ahead of the June legislative elections that Macron’s party and his allies must win if they want to be able to implement their pro-business policies, including raising of retirement. age at 65 to 62
Joshua Antunes, a 19-year-old student, said: “It is important to show Macron and the whole political world that we are prepared to defend our social rights.” He also criticized the president’s “inactivity” on environmental issues.
Protesters carried banners reading “Retirement before arthritis”, “Retirement at 60, frozen prices” and “Macron go away”.
“The government has to deal with the problem of purchasing power by increasing wages,” Philippe Martinez, leader of the hardline CGT union, told Reuters before the demonstrations.
Macron won a new five-year presidential term after beating far-right challenger Marine Le Pen in last Sunday’s runoff election.
Far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, who came third in the first round of the presidential vote, attended the Paris march.
He wants to bring together a left-wing union, including the Greens, to dominate parliament and force Macron into an uncomfortable “cohabitation”, but this has so far failed to materialize.
“We will not make a single concession on pensions,” Melenchon said before the march began.
He said that he still hoped that an agreement could be reached tonight to build a new left-wing union.
Unlike in previous years, Marine Le Pen did not lay a wreath in Paris before the statue of Joan of Arc, whom her party uses as a nationalist symbol. She was replaced by Rassemblement National interim president Jordan Bardella, who said Le Pen was preparing for the legislative elections.
Le Pen urged voters in a video message to elect as many deputies from her party as possible in June so that she can “protect her purchasing power” and prevent Macron from carrying out a “harmful project for France and the French people.” “.
Parliamentary elections will be held on June 12 and 19.