Hundreds arrested at Paris May Day march marred by violence

Alain Jocard, AFP | Hundreds of masked protestors gather behind a burning barrier during a demonstration on the sidelines of a march for the annual May Day workers' rally in Paris on May 1.

Hundreds of black-clad protesters at the head of a Paris Labour Day march have waged heavy property damage on local businesses, confirming concerns issued ahead of traditional May Day festivities by Paris police.


Amid labour and student unrest, rolling transport strikes and the 50th anniversary of May 1968’s popular uprising, the CGT union called like-minded labour and student unions to march from the Place de la Bastille south toward the Place d’Italie. But the march was slowed to a halt by a large group of demonstrators clad in black, with many wearing balaclavas and some with gas masks, who broke into a chant of “Everyone detests the police” on the Austerlitz bridge across the Seine. The Paris police prefecture estimated the size of the group at 1,200 so-called “black bloc” protesters.

The activists ransacked a McDonald’s restaurant on the Left Bank using incendiary devices, Agence France-Presse reported.

Local reporters at the scene posted photos and videos on social media showing damage inside the McDonald’s, as well as cars, a scooter and a bulldozer alight near the Austerlitz train station.

The activists also launched projectiles at police, who responded with tear gas and water cannons.

Some 276 protesters were arrested, 109 of whom remained in custody as of Tuesday night, police said, adding that 31 businesses had suffered damage, two of which had been set ablaze.

The Paris police prefecture had earlier issued a warning that groups might use the march to spread violence and cause material damage in the French capital on Tuesday.

“Activists from extremist anti-establishment groups are looking, during the traditional May 1 demonstration, to lash out violently against law enforcement as well as symbols of capitalism,” the prefecture said in a statement, naming banks, real-estate agencies and car dealerships as businesses that could be targeted for damage.

On Facebook, one group had issued a call to make Tuesday “a day of hell” for French President Emmanuel “Macron and his world”.

In 2017, six police officers were hurt in Paris on May Day, including one seriously by a Molotov cocktail.

“I firmly condemn the violence and damage committed on the margins of the May Day union march in Paris. Everything is in place to stop these serious disturbances to the public order and apprehend the perpetrators of these unspeakable actions,” Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said on Twitter.

In a tweet on Tuesday night, Macron condemned the violence that "marred the May 1 marches". He promised that "everything will be done to ensure that the perpetrators are identified and held accountrable for their actions".

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