May 1st: 164,500 Demonstrators in France, Hundreds of Arrests

General News
Protesters in black and hooded watered by water cannons during clashes with the police on May 1st, 2019 in Paris.

This Wednesday, May 1st, 2019, thousands of people walked in the streets of France. If the atmosphere was good in the region, the situation was much more tense in Paris.

Thousands of people, trade union activists or Yellow Vests, demonstrated throughout France Wednesday, May 1st, in a generally good-natured atmosphere in the region but more tense in Paris, where clashes between “black blocks” and law enforcement have enamelled the parade.

Trade union mobilization 164,500 people throughout France according to the Interior, and 310,000 according to the CGT.

Hundreds of hooded radical activists

By mid-day, even before the start of the parade, hundreds of hooded and black-clad radicals began shouting their usual slogans, like “everyone hates the police,” before sending projectiles to the forces. of the order. The CRS responded with tear-off grenades and tear gas.

While the prefect ordered the closing of the shops, the tensions were initially concentrated around the restaurant La Rotonde, Macronist “symbol” where the candidate of En Marche had celebrated his qualification in the second round of the presidential election.

CGT Secretary General Philippe Martinez in Paris for the parade on May 1st 2019.
CGT Secretary General Philippe Martinez in Paris for the parade on May 1st 2019. (© AFP / Zakaria ABDELKAFI)

Broken windows and fires

Then the procession, mixing trade union activists and “yellow vests”, started early in the afternoon but without Philippe Martinez, the general secretary of the CGT, at its head. The latter was forced to stand back from the clashes between “black blocks” and the police. He was then able to join the head procession, which reached the place of Italy shortly before 4:00 pm, while the rest of the procession was still marching.

Scuffles took place between “black blocks” mixed with the procession and police in eastern Paris, with many broken windows and fire starts.

“Even in 68 we did not see that,” told AFP, tears in the eyes, a militant CGT.

288 arrests

In a statement, the confederation denounced “firmly the ongoing violence in Paris” and “an unprecedented and indiscriminate repression (…) following acts of violence by some”.

“There is a problem and with the prefect and with Mr. Castaner”, the Minister of the Interior, denounced Mr. Martinez in front of journalists.

The ministry, which deployed more than 7,400 police and gendarmes, was counting on “1000 to 2000 radical activists”.

In a district of the Elysée cordoned off for fear of “black blocs”, Emmanuel Macron invited Wednesday 400 professionals of food and flowers for the traditional delivery of lily of the valley, around a sumptuous buffet. The day before, he had demanded that the response to radical militants be “extremely firm”, after calls on social networks to turn Paris into “capital of the riot”.

At the beginning of the afternoon, the police prefecture reported 288 arrests and more than 12,000 checks.

In addition, two policemen were wounded: one of them received a piece of pavement in the face.

“Billionaires” and “people who are dying of hunger”

In Paris, Josiane, a 64-year-old retired from the suburbs, did not wear her usual yellow jacket because May 1st “goes beyond yellow vests”. “I came to protest because I can not stand this society where there are billionaires on the one hand and people who are starving, on the other, are homeless,” she says.

“The latest announcements of Macron, is the powder in the eyes,” castigates for his part Albert, militant CGT 31 years.

Protesters gathered in front of the Montparnasse Tower in Paris, May 1st, 2019
Protesters gathered in front of the Montparnasse Tower in Paris, May 1st, 2019. (© AFP / Martin BUREAU)

20,000 protesters in Toulouse

In the region, the labor day was generally celebrated in a festive atmosphere by trade unionists, “yellow vests” and politicians, but under police surveillance. Several prefectures had announced bans to march in the city center, as in Caen or Lyon.

They were 6200 in Lyon, 2400 in Montpellier, 1500 in Lille, 2100 in Besançon, 3400 in Nantes, 1600 in Strasbourg, according to the police.

In Bordeaux, the march of May 1st took place in a joyful atmosphere to the sound of the djembe and the whistles. Nearly 6400 union activists and 1300 “yellow vests” beat the pavement, the same source.

In Toulouse , the union demonstration in the morning brought together some 20,000 people, according to the CGT.

“No justice, no peace”, “The people hate Macron” or “Thank you for Notre Dame, but give to Les Misérables”, could one read in Lille on placards in the procession in which CGT flags were brandished , PCF or France Insoumise.

In Marseille, 5,500 people marched, according to the police. Some clashes took place at the end of the event at the bottom of the Canebière. Two people were arrested, said an AFP photographer.

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