May Day protests turn violent in Paris

A Black Blocs protester throws a projectile towards the glass windows of a bank during a demonstration of the French trade unions members and the Yellow Vest movement marking May Day in Paris on Wednesday. Photo by Ian Langsdon/EPA-EFE

May 2 (UPI) — May Day demonstrators and Paris police clashed Wednesday, resulting in injuries to 38 people and the arrests of 380, law enforcement said.

France’s Ministry of the Interior said about 164,500 people demonstrated throughout the country, though the General Confederation of Labor, a national trade union center also known by the acronym CGT, said the figure was twice that. The government said there were about 28,000 demonstrators in Paris, but a media consortium said there were about 40,000.

This year’s annual May Day protests were larger than last year’s 143,000 government estimate, and included participants from France’s Yellow Vest movement and the Black Blocs, a group of anarchists and anticapitalist vandals.

Police said some protesters broke store windows and threw projectiles at officers, who responded with tear gas and water cannons. Of the 38 people injured, 14 were police officers.

Paris deployed more than 7,400 officers throughout the city.

Philippe Martinez, general-secretary of the CGT, accused security forces of initiating violence toward member protesters, Radio France Internationale reported.

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The BBC reported that most protests throughout the country appeared to be peaceful as they called for worker and immigrant rights. May Day occurred amid weeks of Yellow Vest protests, which call attention to the differences between France’s wealthy and the working, middle class.

The Yellow Vest movement takes its name from the fluorescent road-safety garment that all French drivers are made to carry in their vehicles.

The protests, which started in late 2018, began with people from rural areas who protested fuel tax increases seen as a green tax supported by President Emmanuel Macron. The protests then morphed to represent a wide variety of complaints including the standard of living, shrinking social welfare benefits and other issues.

Macron conceded to some demands from the Yellow Vest movement last week, pledging to cut taxes and re-introducing inflation-linking for pensions worth less than $2,238 a month.

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