Police attacked protesters in France during large May Day celebrations. The international labour holiday took place during ongoing strikes and protests against the government’s enforced pension reforms.
Fiery scenes in Paris
President Emmanuel Macron forced through reforms to France’s state pension system in April. Amongst other measures, he raised the pension age from 62 to 64. Unions have led a revolt against the plans. They hoped for another large mobilisation on 1 May, an international workers’ holiday.
The CGT (General Confederation of Labour) union estimated that 2.3 million people took to the streets on May Day 2023, including 550,000 in Paris. The government’s home office claimed 782,000 people turned out, with 112,000 in the capital:
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— Alexandros Michailidis (@Alexandros__M) May 2, 2023
FRANCE – Lyon May Day Protests.
In response to the hundreds of police drones that Macron ordered to fly, the people bought black umbrellas to cover themselves, so they can’t be identified as individuals.
Today they are one people!
— Bernie's Tweets (@BernieSpofforth) May 1, 2023
Marches turned chaotic as police attacked protesters across France, including with tear gas, as protesters defended themselves:
#France: Riot police filmed firing tear gas at protesters during May Day clashes in Paris.
— POPULAR FRONT (@PopularFront_) May 2, 2023
France's controversial pension reform was at the center of May Day rallies, with some turning violent and triggering clashes with police. pic.twitter.com/NuciWpwdoW
— DW News (@dwnews) May 2, 2023
A petrol bomb engulfed a group of a police officers at a violent May Day demonstration in Paris, as protesters marched across France against President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial pension reform https://t.co/rlB4QotRaF pic.twitter.com/3e6cIC16lf
— Reuters (@Reuters) May 2, 2023
Police fired gas at demonstrators in Toulouse in southern France, while four cars were set on fire in Lyon. In Nantes, police also fired tear gas, whilst protesters hurled projectiles. And in Marseille, protesters briefly occupied the luxury InterContinental, smashing flowerpots and damaging furniture.
Interior minister Gerald Darmanin said police arrested 540 people across the country, including 305 in Paris.
May Day worldwide
While France saw some of the most spectacular May Day protests, it wasn’t the only country that saw massive marches and protests:
Athens May Day
— PAME Greece International (@PAME_Greece) May 1, 2023
The May Day celebrations in the Dersim province were the most crowded of the last few years.
Dersim holds its position as being the only municipality with an elected communist mayor in Turkey. pic.twitter.com/xSJi0QrvSC
— RevNetTR (@RevNetTR) May 2, 2023
Representatives from across multiple industries protest for Labor Day in Taipei. They say the government under President Tsai Ing-wen has failed to improve conditions for workers in Taiwan. pic.twitter.com/OHhz9gDarv
— TaiwanPlus (@taiwanplusnews) May 1, 2023
May day celebration at Bagdad Iraq pic.twitter.com/v91YylQvUe
— Murugan pondicherry (@KrishnarajMuru2) May 1, 2023
Cities across the UK also had May Day marches, including thousands taking to the streets of London:
Yesterday UVW joined the London Mayday march. ✊🏽
This May Day was extra special as we also sent out ballots to workers from seven workplaces simultaneously, to take part in coordinated strike action this summer. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/AHAmpXwqq4
— United Voices of the World the union (@UVWunion) May 2, 2023
This also coincided with strike action by members of the Royal College of Nurses:
St Thomas' Hospital, London, May Day 2023. pic.twitter.com/2kPSO532FW
— Mark Howell ❤💙 (@markhowell7) May 1, 2023
New strike date fixed
French police aggression towards May Day marches hasn’t deterred further action. Trade unions in the country said on 2 May that they would call new mass demonstrations. They will hold a fourteenth day of protests on 6 June, days before lawmakers debate a bill to repeal Macron’s forced retirement changes.
Unions said they would attend new discussions with cabinet ministers on issues ranging from boosting employment among older people to reforming vocational schools. However, they insisted that they would “reiterate their refusal of the pensions reform”:
There is deep defiance and dialogue can only resume if the government shows it is finally willing to take the unions’ positions into account
Additional reporting via Agence France-Presse
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