Mayday, festival of workers' rights, protest -- and flowers

Paris (AFP) –


Celebrating May Day was once to participate in the ancient ritual of revelling in the return of spring.

In more modern times the date has become an international holiday to honour the labour movement and, hopefully, enjoy a little early sunshine.

But increasingly the occasion takes the form of protest against the authorities -- and this year was no exception, with public ire plainly on view from Paris to Saint Petersburg, via Algiers, Athens and Istanbul.

In Paris, police fired tear gas to disperse anti-capitalist protesters as thousands of people gathered for a May Day march which ended up being barely any more festive than the "gilets jaunes" protests which have plagued France in recent months.

In a nod to the festival's ancient origins -- the return of sunshine and flowers after a long European winter -- street traders across France rushed to sell lily of the valley bouquets as traditional seasonal offerings.

Istanbul police made dozens of arrests of people at an unauthorised rally at Taksim Square, the city's traditional focal point of protest.

A nearby officially-approved event to mark the day drew several thousand people, including members of workers' unions and opposition political parties.

In Saint Petersburg, home city of Vladimir Putin, officials allowed pro-Kremlin marchers to rally freely. But police swiftly broke up a sanctioned march by supporters of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and made some 60 arrests after protesters chanted anti-Putin slogans.

Protests also marked Labour Day rallies in Algeria, where marchers called for top politicians to quit, and the Philippines, where a giant effigy of President Rodrigo Duterte was torched.

And the tense standoff between pro-and anti-regime elements continued in Venezuela after opposition leader Juan Guaido called for a massive May Day protest to increase the pressure on President Maduro.