Protesters clashed with security forces across France on Monday, May 1st, as hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets for labor day to vent their anger against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform.
Unions had been hoping for a vast turnout across France for the May 1 protests to further rattle Macron, who has been greeted by pot-bashing and jeers as he toured the country seeking to defend the reforms and relaunch his second mandate.
Macron last month signed a law to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, despite months of strikes against the bill.
In Paris, radical protesters threw projectiles at police and broke windows of businesses such as banks and estate agents, with security forces responding with tear gas and water cannon, AFP correspondents said.
One policeman, hit by a Molotov cocktail, has suffered severe burns to the hand and to the face, Paris police told AFP. The police said 46 people have been arrested in the capital alone so far.
Police had been given a last-minute go-ahead to use drones as a security measure after a Paris court rejected a petition from rights groups for them not to be used.
Police used tear gas in Toulouse in southern France as tensions erupted during the demonstrations,while four cars were set on fire in the southeastern city of Lyon.
In the western city of Nantes, police also fired tear gas after protesters hurled projectiles, AFP correspondents said. The windows of Uniqlo clothing store were smashed.
“Even if the vast majority of demonstrators were peaceful, in Paris, Lyon and Nantes in particular the police face extremely violent thugs who came with one objective: to kill cops and attack the property of others,” said Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Twitter.
The CGT union said 550,000 people had turned out in Paris for the protests and 2.3 million across France. Government estimates, likely to be far lower, are due later.
– ‘Page not going to be turned’ –
Macron and his government have tried to turn the page on the months of popular discontent, hoping to relaunch his second term after the reform was signed into law.