Paris police arrest hundreds during May Day protests

Police also used water cannons and teargas against the Far-left anarchists, known as Black Blocs, who hijacked the peaceful rally

A protester holds the French flag with an anti-Macron slogan outside a destroyed McDonald's (Photo:BBC)
A protester holds the French flag with an anti-Macron slogan outside a destroyed McDonald's (Photo:BBC)

French police have arrested more than 200 demonstrators who smashed shop windows and torched cars after a planned peaceful May Day rally by labour unions.

Police also used water cannons and teargas against the Far-left anarchist masked protesters, known as Black Blocs, who hijacked the peaceful rally.

Police said about 1,200 masked and hooded protesters attended the annual 1 May demonstration by labour unions.

The clashes came against a backdrop of union discontent with the president, Emmanuel Macron, over his plans to stimulate France’s economy and spur jobs growth by .

Riot police in Paris had warned on Monday of possible clashes with far-left anarchist groups, after a call on social media to make Tuesday a “Revolutionary Day”.

Four people, including a police officer, were lightly wounded, Paris police chief Michel Delpuech told a news conference.

Protesters smashed windows of businesses, including a Renault garage and McDonald’s restaurant near the Austerlitz train station in eastern Paris. They also ransacked shops, torched cars and scrawled anti-capitalist graffiti on walls before eventually being dispersed by police.

The protesters chanted anti-fascist slogans, waved old Soviet flags and anti-government banners and threw firecrackers. Some started to erect barricades.

Police used teargas against protestors wearing masks (Photo:Reuters)
Police used teargas against protestors wearing masks (Photo:Reuters)

Gérard Collomb, the interior minister, condemned the violence and said everything was being done to apprehend the culprits.

Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux criticised the protesters for covering their faces. “When you have sincere convictions, you demonstrate with your face unmasked,” he said. “Those who wear hoods are the enemies of democracy.”

David Le Bars, a police union official, told BFM TV that security services had opted to let the protesters smash things rather than engage them to avoid casualties on either side that could exacerbate tensions.

“They came to hit capitalist symbols and burn cops. When you come with Molotov cocktails, it’s to burn cops,” he said, pointing to clashes on 1 May last year that saw one police officer seriously burnt.

There is widespread discontent in labour unions over Mr Macron's reforms. Rail staff have begun three months of nationwide strikes over a planned overhaul of state-run railway SNCF.

Earlier on Tuesday, Macron reiterated that he would not back down on his reform agenda.

Unions put the number of peaceful protesters at the main rally in Paris at about 55,000, though police put it at around 20,000. The numbers were relatively small compared with other recent demonstrations.

Police said the Black Blocs had mixed into a second rally of 14,500 people set up alongside the official union movement.

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