PARIS, France — Tens of thousands of people marched in cities across Europe on Sunday for May Day protests to honor working people and shame governments for doing more for their citizens.
In France, protesters shouted slogans against newly elected President Emmanuel Macron. Tensions erupted in Paris, as protesters smashed the windows of some banks, a fast food restaurant and a real estate agency.
The French police intervened by firing tear gas canisters. That didn’t stop a woman from attacking a firefighter trying to put out a street fire. Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said 45 people had been arrested so far, including the young woman.
Eight police officers were injured, he said, calling the perpetrators of the violence “thugs” who were trying “to prevent the right to demonstrate”.
In France, the May Day rallies were intended to show centrist Macron the opposition he could face in his second five-year term. Opposition parties are seeking to smash the majority of his government in France’s legislative elections in June.
The Paris march was led by far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, who came third in the first round of the presidential election and is in talks with other left-wing parties in France, including the Socialists once dominant who are struggling to exist.
Some 250 marches and demonstrations took place across France. All were pressing Macron for policies that put people first and condemning his plan to raise the retirement age in France from 62 to 65. Macron says this is the only way the government can continue to provide good pension benefits
Turkish police moved quickly in Istanbul to surround protesters near the closed Taksim Square – where 34 people were killed in a May Day event in 1977.
Turkish police arrested 164 people for protesting without a permit and resisting police in the square, Istanbul’s governor’s office said. On the Asian side of the sprawling city of Istanbul, a union-organized rally drew thousands of people who sang, chanted and held up banners.
Berlin Mayor Franziska Giffey briefly interrupted her May Day speech at a union rally where someone threw an egg at her but missed. Giffey, of the centre-left Social Democrats, was met with loud protests during her speech. Giffey called egg throwing “neither useful nor politically valid”.
In Italy, after a two-year pandemic lull, an outdoor mega-concert was held in Rome after rallies and protests in cities across the country. Along with improving conditions for workers, peace was an underlying theme, with many calls for an end to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Italy’s three main unions held their main rally in the hilltop town of Assisi, a frequent destination of peace protests.
“It’s a May Day of social and civil commitment for peace and work,” said the head of the Italian CISL union, Daniela Fumarola.
Rising inflation and fears of upcoming food shortages due to the war in Ukraine were fueling discontent around the world.
Thousands of workers, unemployed and pensioners marched peacefully in North Macedonia’s capital, Skopje, to demand wage increases and respect for workers’ rights. Inflation, at an annual level of 8.8% in March, is at its highest level for 14 years.
Darko Dimovski, head of the country’s Federation of Trade Unions, told the crowd that workers were demanding a general wage increase.
Nicole Winfield in Rome, Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul, Demetris Nellas in Athens, Oleg Cetinic in Paris contributed to this report.