French unions defiant after police attacked May Day protesters across the country

Firefighters lead May Day protests in Paris as workers continue going on strike against pension reforms
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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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Marches turned chaotic as police attacked protesters across France, including with tear gas, as protesters defended themselves:

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:

Cities across the UK also had May Day marches, including thousands taking to the streets of London:

This also coincided with strike action by members of the Royal College of Nurses:

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

Featured image via screenshot, Twitter/@CerveauxNon

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