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Sunday 18 August 2019

Anarchists and yellow vest protesters clash with French police on May Day

Thousands of peaceful protesters also took to the streets to mark the occasion.

Police officers pass by burning rubbish as they confront demonstrators (Francois Mori/AP)
Police officers pass by burning rubbish as they confront demonstrators (Francois Mori/AP)

By Sylvie Corbet and Nicolas Garriga, Associated Press

Clusters of anarchists and yellow vest protesters disrupted May Day rallies in Paris by throwing rocks, setting rubbish bin fires and antagonising riot squads as tens of thousands of people marched through bursts of tear gas.

Police officers used tear gas, flash grenades and rubber ball launchers as troublemakers wearing black masks and hoods confronted them in the street and pelted them with stones and other objects.

The confrontations broke out near the start of the main May Day march near Montparnasse railway station and started again at the end of the route near the Place d’Italie in south east Paris as police tried to disperse stragglers.

France’s interior ministry said about 16,000 people marched in Paris and more than 151,000 in May Day rallies across the country.

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A police officer walks in a fog of tear gas (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP)

A private company hired by a group of French news outlets, Occurrence, counted 40,000 protesters in Paris.

More than 7,400 police officers were deployed in Paris because of the May Day events.

The Paris police department said there were 288 arrests.

Officers also carried out more than 12,500 “preventive searches” of bags.

French authorities had warned “radical activists” might disrupt the Paris demonstration Wednesday as in previous yellow vest protests and on May Day during the last two years.

Groups of the masked and hooded protesters causing damage and then merged with the much larger number of peaceful May Day marchers.

Some vandalised a parked van, kicking the vehicle and breaking its windows.

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A man shouts as he takes part in a May Day demonstration (Francois Mori/AP)

Others set small fires to rubbish bins.

It was not immediately clear how many people were injured.

At least two men with head wounds were helped away by paramedics and firefighters assisted a woman in a wheelchair.

Some police officers also fell on the ground.

Paris police said one police officer was taken to a hospital with a head injury.

While some of the people clashing with police wore the signature yellow vests of a French anti-government movement, the peaceful march also had participants in yellow vests as well as waving labour union flags.

Yellow vest supporters joined the traditional May Day union march to show their common rejection of President Emmanuel Macron’s economic policies, seen as favouring the wealthy and big business.

Mr Macron last week tried to address the complaints of the yellow vest movement by announcing tax cuts for middle-class workers and an increase in pensions.

Philippe Martinez, secretary general of one of France’s major trade unions, the CGT, temporarily left the march for security reasons during the scuffles between the anarchist protesters and police.

After rejoining the march, he stressed that yellow vest and union activists “are marching together in all French cities”.

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French President Emmanuel Macron is pictured through a piece of cheese as he attends the annual May Day ceremony (Christophe Ena/AP)

“That’s a protest of workers who tell the government and the president of the republic: ‘Change your policies,'” Mr Martinez said of the support from the movement that started in November.

“We are very satisfied of the mobilisation.”

Signs held aloft during the march read “Long live freedom, long live socialism”, “Police, gendarmes, join us,” and “What are we going to leave our children? Wake up.”

Far-left politician Eric Coquerel, member of France Insoumise (Rebel France) said “violence is, unfortunately, often playing against protesters”.

Larger numbers of demonstrators would be “more efficient” to put pressure on the government, he said.

French police ordered the closure of more than 580 shops, restaurants and cafes on the Paris protest route and numerous subway stations were shut.

PA Media

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