Violence erupted in the streets of Paris on Sunday night during the May Day protests against the re-election of President Emmanuel Macron.
Thousands of people took to the streets for marches across France to object to some of Macron’s policies, such as raising the retirement age from 62 to 65, and also to ask for higher salaries.
Most of the marches were peaceful, but violence erupted in the capital as police fired tear gas and clashed with black-clad anarchists.
Officers arrested 54 people, including a woman who attacked a firefighter who was trying to put out a fire, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Twitter. He added that eight police officers were injured.
The violence first erupted at the start of the march near the Place de la République and when it reached the Place de la Nation in eastern Paris.
The “Black Bloc” anarchists attacked a McDonald’s in Place Leon Blum and damaged several real estate agencies, breaking their windows and setting containers on fire. Police responded by firing tear gas.
About 250 rallies were organized in Paris and other cities, including Lille, Nantes, Toulouse, and Marseille. In total, 116,500 people demonstrated across the country, including 24,000 in the capital.
The cost of living was the main issue of the presidential election campaign and it looks set to be equally prominent ahead of the June legislative elections that Macron’s party and his allies must win if they are to be able to implement their pro-business policies.
“It is important to show Macron and the entire political world that we are prepared to defend our social rights,” said Joshua Antunes, a 19-year-old student. He also accused the president of “inactivity” on environmental issues.
Protesters carried banners reading “Retirement before arthritis”, “Retirement at 60, frozen prices” and “Macron go away”.
“The government has to deal with the problem of purchasing power by increasing wages,” Philippe Martínez, leader of the CGT union, told Reuters before the demonstrations.
Macron won a new five-year presidential term after beating far-right challenger Marine Le Pen in last Sunday’s runoff election. Jean-Luc Melenchon, who came third in the first round of the presidential election, attended the Paris march.
Melenchon, who is politically to the left of Macron, wants to bring together a progressive union, including the Greens, to dominate parliament and force Macron into an uncomfortable “cohabitation”.
“We will not make a single concession on pensions,” Melenchon said before the march began. He said he still hoped an agreement could be reached to build a new left-wing union on Sunday night.
Additional information from Reuters