WORLD Clashes mar May Day in Europe


Clashes mar May Day in Europe

China Daily

08:29, May 03, 2022

A protester cowers as a police officer stands over him in clashes that erupted during the May Day rally in Paris on Sunday. [Photo/Agencies]

Paris violence reflects social divisions as living costs vex protesters across region

Police used tear gas to quell violent protests in Paris that broke out as tens of thousands of people took to the streets on Sunday across France and other European countries to mark International Workers' Day, also known as May Day.

In Paris and other French cities, demonstrators demanded higher wages, support for public services and more climate-friendly policies, and they urged the government to drop its plan to raise the retirement age. Many were directing their anger at the policies of President Emmanuel Macron, who won reelection for a further five years just a week ago.

While most of the demonstrations were peaceful, clashes broke out between police and some young protesters clad in black who vandalized business properties including a McDonald's branch, banks, insurance companies and real estate agencies, and set garbage bins on fire.

Police arrested 54 protesters, including a woman who attacked a firefighter trying to extinguish a blaze. Eight police were injured, according to French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin.

Darmanin said on Twitter on Sunday that "thugs" were committing "unacceptable violence" and he expressed his full support for police.

About 116,500 people took part in the 250 rallies staged in the French capital and cities such as Marseille, Toulouse, Lyon, Nantes, Bordeaux, Strasbourg and Lille. In Paris, the number was estimated at 24,000, according to the Interior Ministry.

The cost of living, which sparked the massive Yellow Vest movement in late 2018, remained a major issue in Sunday's protest and in last month's French presidential election. Inflation in France reached 4.8 percent in April, according to estimates released on Friday by the national statistics office. Macron's plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 65 has also met strong opposition.

"Retirement Before Arthritis" and "Retirement at 60, Freeze Prices" were some of the banners carried by the demonstrators in Paris.

"We will not make a single concession on pensions," Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of the far-left La France Insoumise group, or LFI, said before the demonstration started on Sunday. Melenchon, who finished third in the first round of the presidential vote on April 10, has been rallying supporters in order to win more seats in parliamentary elections from June 12-19.

"May Day is the time to rally for a reduction in working time. That reduction signifies one key thing-that workers should be getting a larger share of the wealth," said Melenchon, condemning the violence at the Paris march, which he said overshadows the concerns of workers.

On Monday, both the LFI and France's green EELV party revealed that they had struck a deal to form a joint front against Macron in the parliamentary elections.

"Historic moment. The deal between LFI and EELV is done," said lawmaker Adrien Quatennens, one of the LFI's campaign coordinators, according to Reuters.

Manuel Bompard, a spokesman for Melenchon's campaign, told France Inter radio on Monday that talks with other parties would continue in the next hours.

Also on Sunday, about 10,000 people demonstrated in the center of the Greek capital Athens to protest over the cost of living. Inflation in Greece reached 8 percent in March, compared with the 7.5 percent in the European Union.

In Italy, after a two-year pandemic lull, an outdoor mega-concert was held in Rome after rallies and protests in cities across the country. Besides improving conditions for workers, peace was an underlying theme, with many calls for an end to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Italy's three main labor unions held their main rally in the hilltop town of Assisi, a frequent destination for peace protests.

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