Violence erupts in Paris May Day protests as marchers criticise Macron

Protesters demand salary increases and for Macron to drop his plan to raise the retirement age

Demonstrators clash with police during the annual May Day march in Paris on May 1. EPA
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Police fired tear gas at black-clad anarchists who ransacked business premises in Paris on Sunday during May Day protests against the policies of newly re-elected President Emmanuel Macron.

Thousands of people joined May Day marches across France, demanding pay rises and for Mr Macron to drop his plan to raise the retirement age.

Most were peaceful but violence broke out in the capital, where police arrested 54 people including a woman who attacked a fireman while he was trying to put out a blaze, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Twitter.

Eight police officers were injured, Mr Darmanin said.

Clashes with police broke out at the start of the march near La Republique Square, and when it reached La Nation Square in eastern Paris.

"Black Bloc" anarchists ransacked a McDonald's on the Place Leon Blum and trashed property agencies, breaking their windows and setting rubbish bins on fire.

Police responded by firing tear gas.

About 250 rallies were organised in Paris and other cities including Lille, Nantes, Toulouse and Marseille.

The Interior Ministry said 116,500 people demonstrated across the country, including 24,000 in the capital.

In Paris, trade unionists were joined by political figures, mostly from the left, and climate activists.

The cost of living was the main theme in the presidential election campaign and looks set to be equally prominent before June parliamentary elections.

Mr Macron's party and its allies must win those elections for him to implement his pro-business policies, including increasing the retirement age to 65 from 62.

"It is important to show Macron and the whole political world that we are prepared to defend our social rights," said student Joshua Antunes, 19.

Mr Antunes also accused the president of "inactivity" on environment issues.

Marchers carried banners reading "Retirement before arthritis", "Retirement at 60", "Freeze prices" and "Macron, get out"

"The government has got to deal with the purchasing power problem by raising wages," Philippe Martinez, the head of the hardline CGT union, told Reuters before the rallies.

Mr Macron won a new five-year presidential term after beating far-right challenger Marine Le Pen in last Sunday's run-off vote.

Far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, who came third in the first round of the presidential vote, attended the Paris march.

Mr Melenchon wants to rally a union of the left, including the Greens, to dominate Parliament and force Mr Macron into an awkward "cohabitation", but so far this has not happened.

"We will not make a single concession on pensions," he said before the march started.

Mr Melenchon said he still hoped an agreement to build a new union of the left could be reached by Sunday evening.

Unlike in previous years, Ms Le Pen did not lay a wreath in Paris at the statue of Joan of Arc, who is used by her party as a nationalist symbol.

She was replaced by the Rassemblement National interim president Jordan Bardella, who said Ms Le Pen was preparing for the legislative elections.

She urged voters in a video message to elect as many deputies from her party as possible in June so that she could "protect your purchasing power," and prevent Mr Macron from carrying a "harmful project for France and the French people"

The parliamentary elections will be held on June 12 and 19.

Updated: May 01, 2022, 10:10 PM