Violence Erupts Across France During May Day Demonstrations

May Day demonstration

Thousands of people across France took to the streets for the traditional May Day demonstrations on Sunday, but there was increased tension compared to previous years.

Protesters clashed with riot police during the May Day protest in Paris, held to demonstrate against labour reforms proposed by the French government and to commemorate International Worker’s Day.

The French parliament is debating a bill that would allow longer working hours and let companies lay workers off more easily. The bill has prompted the most violent labour related protests in over a decade

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The Mail Online reports:

By mid-afternoon gangs were already involved in fights with riot police in cities and towns across the country.

In Paris, tear gas and batons were used against dozens of masked anarchists – who were apparently joined by students – close to the Place de la Bastille.

‘They corned officers against a wall and began pelting them with bricks and stones,’ said a police spokesman at the scene. The atmosphere is extremely tense, and we are prepared for more attacks on us as the march continues.

There were five separate demonstrations being held in Paris, while others took place in other parts of France.

One was organised by Femen, an anarchist feminist group, who tried to attack Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front

Violent incidents were also reported in Rennes and Marseille, as economic crises and a rise in unemployment fuelled hatred of resident Francois Hollande’s government.

Protests have already descended into chaos, with Porsche cars among those set on fire, and dozens of police injured.

The government hopes a change to French labour law will help reduce chronic unemployment, which is over 10 per cent.

But critics believe they threaten hard-won workers’ rights by making it easier for employers to sack people.

French prime minister, Manuel Valls issued a warning today to potential rioters, saying: ‘We will respond with the greatest determination to these troublemakers… the attacks and violence against security forces are unacceptable.’

It came as two anti-government protesters aged 22 and 30 were imprisoned for six and eight months respectively for violence against the police.

Their crimes took place in the French capital last Thursday when tear gas and batons were again used by riot-control officers.

‘Imprisoning political protestors is a clear sign that the government is losing control,’ said Carole Garcia, an 18-year-old student involved in organising the protests.

‘It is incredible that a Socialist administration is using these kind of tactics against those who oppose its policies.’

But an Interior Ministry spokesman said the violence was ‘getting worse every day’, and that officers were ‘regularly being seriously hurt’ by young rioters.

Today some were wearing face masks, and marching under black anarchist flags, while throwing stones and bottles at officers.