Europe

Paris May Day protests: Demonstrators clash with police

French police have fired tear gas on masked protesters who joined large May Day demonstrations in Paris.

Traditionally a union-led day of action in the country, this year’s event saw both the yellow vest movement and so-called “black blocks” of dark-clad and masked protesters.

Some smashed shop windows and threw projectiles at the police. Dozens of people have been arrested.

The clashes forced the head of the CGT union to temporarily flee the march.

Philippe Martinez told news outlet Franceinfo that “police charged the CGT”, though other witnesses had said the “black blocks” had attacked the union march.

AFP news agency says Mr Martinez planned to return.

Police issued a statement saying the union was never targeted, but that police “have carried out their mission with determination against violent thugs”.

French broadcaster BFMTV reports that the clashes forced the teachers’ union FSU to leave the event.

Is this year’s protest larger?

By early afternoon, France’s interior ministry said more than 150,000 demonstrators had taken to the streets around the country, and at least 16,000 in the capital – a significant increase on last year’s estimates.

Another estimate from media groups put the number far higher, at some 40,000 in Paris.

More than 200 arrests have been made in the capital.

French police apprehend protesters during the traditional May Day labour union march with French unions and yellow vests protesters in Paris, France, May 1, 2019.
Man kicks can

Yet most demonstrators have been non-violent, and clashes with police have occurred in isolated pockets.

France’s National Police tweeted a message saying it was guaranteeing the write to express opinions, and called on peaceful protesters to disassociate themselves from violent groups.

Elsewhere, one French journalist reported that while the riot police from France’s CRS were subjected to insults, the firefighters of Paris were warmly applauded by passing demonstrators.

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Many protesters have joined from the yellow vests movement, which has been protesting on the streets every weekend for months.

French President Emmanuel Macron has made a series of concessions to the movement which has been fuelled by the high the cost of living – most recently with a wave of tax cuts.

One demonstrator, Florence, said the concessions had not made a difference.

“We’ve been trying to fight, to make ourselves heard for six months and nobody cares,” she told Reuters news agency.

“People don’t understand the movement though it seems pretty simple: we just want to live normally.”