May Day sees clashes in Paris, official and unsanctioned rallies in Russia

by - 4 min read

May Day sees clashes in Paris, official and unsanctioned rallies in Russia

by - 4 min read


Thousands of trade union members and activists around the world marked May Day on Wednesday by marching in major cities, demanding better working conditions and expanding labour rights.

French police clashed with stone-throwing protesters who set fires and smashed vehicles as thousands of people gathered for rallies under tight security.

Police in Paris repeatedly used tear gas to try to control the crowd gathering near Montparnasse train station for the main protest. It wasn’t immediately clear how many people were injured. One bandaged man with a head wound was helped away from the scene by paramedics.

Associated Press reporters observed groups of hooded people in black shouting anti-police slogans, mixing with other protesters wearing yellow vests or waving union flags.

An injured protester in Paris was helped away from the scene by street medics after clashes before the start of the traditional May Day labour union march. (Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters)

Some threw rocks and other objects at police officers, attacked a parked van in a nearby street, kicking the vehicle and breaking its windows.

Paris police said officers carried out more than 9,000 “preventive searches” of bags and arrested 165 people before the march. More than 7,400 police were deployed in Paris.

Meanwhile, some peaceful protesters were waiting for the march to start. They were planning to head toward Place d’Italie in southern Paris.

French authorities warned “radical activists” may join the Paris demonstration and renew scenes of violence that marked previous yellow vest protests and May Day demonstrations over the past two years.

Yellow vests joined traditional May Day union march to show their common rejection of French President Emmanuel Macron’s economic policies.

In Russia, activists said more than a dozen people were detained in St. Petersburg for participating in an unsanctioned political protest. Most of them are supporters of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Some of the activists were carrying placards saying, “Putin is not immortal” in reference to President Vladimir Putin who has been at the helm of the country since 2000.

In Moscow, authorities said about 100,000 people are taking part in a rally organized by Kremlin-friendly trade unions in Red Square. Over the years, May Day in Russia has transformed from the occasion for rallies for workers’ rights to an official event carefully orchestrated by Kremlin-controlled groups.

Workers attend a May Day rally organized by the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia in Red Square. (Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters)

Spain’s workers marched to make their voices heard days before acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez starts negotiating with other parties to form a new government.

Spain’s leading unions are pressing for Sanchez to roll back business-friendly labour and fiscal reforms that have remained in place since the previous conservative administration.

Sanchez’s Socialist party won Sunday’s election, but will still need other parties to form a government and pass laws. Sanchez will meet with the leaders of the three other top vote-getters next week.

Rallies across Asia

A major South Korean umbrella trade union issued a joint statement with a North Korean workers’ organization calling for the Koreas to push ahead with engagement commitments made during a series of inter-Korean summits last year. Many of the plans agreed to between the Koreas, including joint economic projects, have been held back by a lack of progress in nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang.

Wearing headbands and swinging their fists, the protesters in Seoul rallied in streets near City Hall, marching under banners denouncing deteriorating working conditions and calling for equal treatment and pay for non-regular workers.

In South Korea, protesters called for better rights for workers and a reduction in working hours. (Ahn Young-joon/The Associated Press)

May Day rallies were also being held in other parts of Asia, including the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Cambodia and Myanmar.

In the Philippines, thousands of workers and labour activists marched near the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila. They demanded that the government of President Rodrigo Duterte address labour issues including a minimum wage increase and the end of contractualization for many workers.

Police said about 5,000 people joined the march, which comes just over a week before senatorial elections are held in the country. One labour group said its members would not vote for any candidate endorsed by Duterte and burned an effigy of Duterte.

A protester carrying a child participates in a May Day rally in Manila. Protesters in the Philippines are calling for several changes, including a boost in the minimum wage. (Eloisa Lopez/Reuters)

In Sri Lanka, major political parties called off traditional May Day rallies due to security concerns following the Easter bombings that killed 253 people and were claimed by militants linked to ISIS.

Several thousand workers were marching through the streets of Taiwan’s capital city Taipei to demand better working conditions. They carried banners and flags and chanted for more days off and higher overtime pay.

Many wore baseball caps and colourful clear plastic ponchos over their clothes, though a light rain ended as the march got underway. Taiwan’s official Central News Agency said 6,000 people joined the march.

This story originally appeared on CBC