May Day street clashes in France fuelled by widening anti-Macron coalition

by - 9 min read

May Day street clashes in France fuelled by widening anti-Macron coalition

by - 9 min read


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  • A widening anti-Macron coalition of yellow vests, black block anarchists, members of the far-right National Front, trade unionists, feminist activists and anti-climate change marchers joined some 230 protests across France today to mark the traditional May celebration of labour.
  • A new federal rebate is raising interest in electric vehicles, but here’s why it’s not enough to get everyone into the EV driver’s seat just yet.
  • It seems the list of allergy-inducing foods just keeps getting longer — doctors offer some advice.
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here.

Life’s a riot in Paris

The protesters had vowed to transform the City of Lights into the “capital of rioting.”

And violence did flare at today’s massive May Day march in Paris, with police making liberal use of tear gas and rubber-pellet-spreading “sting” grenades in an effort to quell the minority of troublemakers who threw stones, overturned cars and erected flaming barricades in the streets.

By early evening local time, authorities had made more than 250 arrests, and carried out almost 13,000 “preventive searches” of people and cars.

A yellow vest protester holds a French flag as police use tear gas to quell May Day demonstrations in Paris on Wednesday. (Ian Langsdon/EPA-EFE)

Spooked by six-straight months of sometimes-violent “yellow vest” protests across France, and desperate to avoid a repeat of the looting and fires that blighted Paris a year ago, the government had dispatched 7,400 riot police to the capital.

Shops and restaurants along the planned route were advised to lock their doors and board up windows, and 30 metro stations were preventatively shut.  Squads of motorcycle cops stood at the ready to rush to trouble spots, while drones patrolled the skies — all part of what President Emmanuel Macron called his “extremely firm” approach to his critics.

The show of strength comes on the heels of a recently enacted law that gives police the right to stop people and examine their bags and vehicles, and makes it a criminal offence for protestors to conceal their faces — punishable by up to a year in jail and a $23,000 Cdn fine.

But that didn’t stop hundreds of masked youths from spilling into Paris streets today, or dampen the spirits of a crowd that some estimated to be as large as 55,000 people.

Demonstrators vandalize a bank on Boulevard Saint-Marcel in Paris on Wednesday. More than 7,400 police and security forces were deployed in the city to prevent a repeat of the violence and disorder seen in 2018. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

It wasn’t just the populist “yellow vests” either, but also “black block” anarchists, members of the far-right National Front, trade unionists, feminist activists and anti-climate change marchers — part of a widening anti-Macron coalition that marked the traditional May celebration of labour with some 230 protests across France.

The marches come six days after the French president unveiled his latest response to the protests that have now dogged his government for 24 consecutive weeks.

In a nationally televised speech last Thursday, Macron told his audience that the yellow vest movement, which began last November as a reaction to a new fuel tax and service cuts, had made some “just demands” and tapped into legitimate feelings of “anger and impatience for change.”

And he promised income tax cuts, a return to pension indexing, greater proportional representation and more referendums in response — measures that will cost an estimated 7 billion Euros ($10.5 billion Cdn) in addition to the 10 billion Euros ($15 billion Cdn) in reforms he announced last December.

The yellow vest leaders panned Macron’s plan as “too little, too late,” and returned to the streets last Saturday, and again today.

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during the annual May Day ceremony at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Wednesday. Opinion polls suggest Macron’s support has dropped to about 30 per cent, half what it was when he was first elected. (Christophe Ena/Associated Press)

The number of demonstrators is falling — 23,000 across the country and just 2,600 in Paris last weekend, according to the government.

But the big question for Macron remains what will bottom out first, the angry crowds in the streets or his popularity?

Opinion surveys suggest that 41-year-old reformer now has about 30 per cent support, half of what he enjoyed when he came to power in 2017.

The next elections aren’t until 2022, but Macron already faces an uphill battle.

The last president of France to win re-election was Jacques Chirac — back in 2002.

More green for going green

A new federal rebate is raising interest in electric vehicles, but it’s not enough to get everyone into the EV driver’s seat just yet, reporter David Common writes.

As of today, the federal government will give buyers and leasers of new electric vehicles up to $5,000. Add that to provincial rebates, and some drivers could cut the cost of a vehicle by more than $10,000. So why isn’t everyone rushing out to take the free money?

A trip to Rossland, B.C., helped us understand.

The community of about 4,000 is isolated, surrounded by snowy mountains where winter temperatures can reduce the range of electric vehicles. It’s seven hours by road from both Vancouver and Calgary. As it is for many Canadians, having enough juice for road trips is a key EV selling point for people in Rossland.

Jen Grebeldinger of B.C.’s Community Energy Association will travel around the Kootenays this summer offering test drives to rural residents considering an electric vehicle. (Jill English/CBC)

“My requirements were a 500 km range and all-wheel drive for the mountains,” Mike Greene explained.

And that left him with only one choice of vehicle, so he swapped out his 1997 Honda Civic for a Tesla Model 3. Quite the upgrade — a quick check of Tesla’s website this morning shows the long-range all-wheel-drive model priced at $68,510.

“I’ve had it for six months, with no regrets,” Greene added.

There are five Tesla owners in the small town. And they aren’t the only residents driving zero-emission vehicles.

But the limited selection was a consistent theme at the EV showcase in a parking lot off the historic centre of Rossland on a recent weekend. There are just 28 EV models on sale in Canada now that the federal rebate will cover. Most of them are small vehicles. Only a handful have an electric range of more than 350 km.

Combine that with price points typically over $35,000 and many consumers are steering clear of the greener choice, even when fuel savings of about $2,000 a year a factored in.

But at Rossland’s rural EV showcase, dozens did show up looking for a test drive.

Electric vehicle owners mingle with curious Rossland residents as part of the Community Energy Association’s Accelerate Kootenays project in rural British Columbia. (Jill English/CBC)

“That’s the big barrier, not seeing them in person,” organizer Jen Grebeldinger told us. “So that’s why we do these events, getting people in the seat so they realize ‘oh it’s just a car.'”

And the questions poured out:

  • How long does charging take? “30 minutes on a roadside rapid charger. A few hours overnight at home.”
  • How much does a full charge cost? “At home, two bucks. On the road, up to $15, depending on battery size.”
  • How many charging stations are there? “Enough to get you where you need to go. But more are needed, as more EVs get on the road.”
  • How often do you use roadside chargers? “Rarely. Almost all charging is done at home.”

As the event ended in Rossland, more than a few were convinced. Their next car would be an EV.

Others liked the idea. They’re just waiting for lower prices, better ranges, and bigger vehicle offerings.

The good news is that all those things appear to be in the pipeline.

– David Common

  • WATCH: The National’s story about government incentives for electric vehicles, tonight on CBC Television and streamed online

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Coping with allergies that can kill

The National’s Health Panel tonight focuses on the dos and dont’s of dealing with food-related allergies  and shares some potentially life saving wisdom, producer Ghazala Malik writes.

It seems the list of allergy-inducing foods just keeps getting longer.

A recent Canadian case study, for example, explores how foods containing pea protein are responsible for an increase in allergic reactions and anaphylaxis.

“One of the hardest things is the quality of life aspect when it comes to dealing with allergies. Especially with kids,” Dr. Zainab Abdurrahman says.

The pediatric allergist and professor at McMaster University says she sees a lot of anxiety in her clients with food allergies, as well as in parents of children with allergies. For parents, the balancing act between trying to ensure their kids have a regular childhood while also being vigilant can lead to a lot of stress, and in many cases even feelings of guilt.

Her advice to parents: “Be practical. Your child has to interact with the outside world. So we have to be able to make this work. Parents want to protect their kids, and the best way to do that is by educating yourselves and them.”

A youngster demonstrates how to use an EpiPen to counteract an allergic reaction. (Lucas Trieb/AFP/Getty Images)

But one of the biggest misconceptions around food-related allergies is that it’s an issue limited to childhood or early adulthood. According to Dr. Samir Sinha, a geriatrician at Mount Sinai Hospital, this is a dangerous mindset that needs to change.

“One of the challenges we see is that with adults, late-onset allergies actually go misdiagnosed and under-recognized. A person might be going to a primary care physician or specialist and saying, ‘I have been having these symptoms,’ and it might not even occur to the provider that these are allergies,” since the patient is older, says Sinha.

Whether it’s a childhood food-related allergy or one that crops up later in life, all three panelists stress the importance of always carrying an EpiPen, a portable self-injector that administers medication to treat severe allergic reactions.

Dr. Lennox Huang, who works in pediatric critical care at Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, recommends carrying more than one EpiPen, because in some cases a double dose may be required to counteract an extreme anaphylactic reaction.

“Practice again and again how to administer the EpiPen. If the need arises, you shouldn’t stop to think. You should just do it. It will save your life or the life of a loved one.”

For more, watch The National’s health panel with Andrew Chang tonight on CBC Television and streamed online.

– Ghazala Malik

A few words on … 

More nice teenagers.

Quote of the moment

“For a decade the IAAF has tried to slow me down, but this has actually made me stronger … I will once again rise above and continue to inspire young women and athletes in South Africa and around the world.”

– Caster Semenya, two-time Olympic gold medalist in the women’s 800 metre, reacts to a Court of Arbitration for Sport decision upholding track and field rules that will require her to medically reduce her naturally high testosterone levels.

South African Olympic 800-metre champion Caster Semenya, shown in this April photo, lost her appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Wednesday. (AFP/Getty Images)

What The National is reading

  • Defiant Maduro claims victory over Guaido coup attempt (BBC)
  • Wikileaks founder Julian Assange sentenced to 50 weeks for jumping U.K. bail (CBC)
  • Mueller complained to Barr about memo on key findings (Washington Post)
  • U.S. stops tracking Taliban territory control in Afghanistan (Deutsche Welle)
  • China’s “charming towns” plan turns into a nightmare for investors (South China Morning Post)
  • “Flushable” wipes? Environment group asks Competition Bureau to probe claim (CBC)
  • Cellphones now outnumber the world’s population (Quartz)

Today in history

May 1, 1989: May Day in the era of perestroika

As Mikhail Gobrachev took his place atop Lenin’s tomb in Red Square to watch the May Day celebrations, his political grip seemed firmer than ever. Just days before, he had forced 110 old-guard members of the Soviet parliament to retire. But as Don Murray shows there is bubbling public discontent over short supplies and long lines for such basic goods as soap, razorblades, shoes and shirts. The return of sugar rationing after 40 years is the newest wrinkle — “too many people were hoarding it to make moonshine,” explains one Moscovite.

In 1989 Moscow’s May Day parade is a mass display of balloons and ribbons instead of weapons. 2:34

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This story originally appeared on CBC

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