Violent Riots Break Out at May Day March in Paris

Rioting has broken out in Paris today at a march for May Day (akin to Labor Day in the United States). The government had expected and warned that the risk of violence would be increased this year (The New York Times says “some violence always accompanies the May Day rally”) as it would reignite tensions that started the Yellow Vest movements that began last November.

According to France 24, French interior minister Christophe Castaner said that between 1,000 and 2,000 “radical activists” could infiltrate union-organized protests and that around 7,400 police deployed to Paris alone. The march was scheduled for 2:30 p.m. local time but large crowds had gathered well before that.

After riots broke out, which were organized by Black Bloc and included lighting objects on fire and throwing projectiles at police, local authorities began to fire teargas at protesters. They also used rubber bullets and batons to try and resort order, The Sun reports. 

Paris police said they had arrested 250 people and carried out at least 12,528 searches by mid-afternoon. While previous counter-measures by the police have been more “discreet” in the past, also according to France 24, this year, they’ve taken on the protesters “head-on.”Prior to today’s events, President Emmanuel Macron tried to appease the Yellow Vests with promises to lower taxes and raise pensions. These measures, along with earlier concessions, are expected to cost the government some $19 billion. The Yellow Vests, along with France’s unions, have said these were not enough.

Regarding public monuments: The Ile de la Cite—the island where Notre Dame Cathedral is situated—has been on lockdown following the blaze that almost destroyed it last month, and armored cars and water cannons were deployed next to historic buildings, such as the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe.

More than 230 May Day protests have been organized nationwide, all of which went smoothly, with the exception of Paris, according to the General Confederation of Labour (CGT) union. An estimated 6,400 protesters, including 1,300 Yellow Vests, marched in Bordeaux, according to the police; the CGT put this number higher at 10,000. In Marseille, the union said that 30,000 people took to the streets; the police estimate was significantly lower at 5,500, of which 1,200 were Yellow Vest protesters. Demonstrations were also held in the major cities of Strasbourg, Lyon and Toulouse, drawing crowds of around 2,000.

The protests remain ongoing (entering the evening in Paris).

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