Protesters against pension reform parade in Paris on May 1, 2023. (Photo: AP – Aurelien Morissard)

Patricia Moribe

About 550,000 people took part, this Monday (1st), in the historic Labor Day demonstration in Paris, according to the CGT trade union federation. The police estimate that 112,000 people took to the streets in the capital. A police officer was seriously injured after being hit by a Molotov cocktail. At least 68 people were arrested in the city.

“Despite the vast majority of peaceful protesters, the forces of order in Paris, Lyon and Nantes faced very violent rioters,” wrote French Interior Minister Gérald Darminin on Twitter. “A police officer was seriously injured with burns after throwing a Molotov cocktail,” he added.

Across France, 108 police and security agents were injured and 291 people arrested, Darmanin said earlier in the evening.

The main target of the protesters’ criticism was President Emmanuel Macron and his pension reform, which raises the minimum retirement age to 64. Many called for the legislation to be withdrawn.

Despite the approximately 5,000 police officers specially deployed for the occasion in Paris, clashes broke out when the march reached Praça da Nação, the end point of the parade that began at Praça da República, at 2 pm local time (9 am Brasília time). Hundreds of “black blocs” armed with fireworks threw objects at the police, who retaliated with tear gas and defensive grenades.

Lively start under the rain

In the early afternoon, despite a heavy downpour of rain, the protest got off to a lively start. The favorite catchphrase of the protests – “We are here, Macron. Even if you don’t want to, we’re here!” – was pulled at all times, gaining an immediate chorus from the participants.

“He passed the reform by force, but we are not going to give up”, commented Gilles, retired, referring to the constitutional articles (47.1 and 49.3) that exempted the deputies from voting, accelerating the process that raised the minimum retirement age.

“This 1st of May is emblematic for the French people, because of the [lei da] retirement that has just been enacted”, declared Maria Luiza Lapa, co-coordinator of the Paris PT. “We are here, first and foremost, in solidarity with the French people. Secondly, because this reform affects workers and all workers whose countries have a bilateral social security agreement, as is the case with Brazil”.

Throughout France, participation was also significant, with 40,000 people in Caen, 130,000 in Marseille and 100,000 in Toulouse, according to the CGT. The police estimated, respectively, 16,300, 11,000 and 13,500 demonstrators. The French Ministry of the Interior estimated the presence of 782 thousand protesters across the country, against 2.3 million indicated by the unions.

historical manifestation
The numbers of this mobilization considered historic go far beyond a classic 1st of May. This is the first time in 14 years that French trade unions have come together under one banner for International Workers’ Day. A last parade united with the eight main unions in the country took place in 2009, in the face of the economic crisis.

The French were joined by foreign trade union representatives, such as Koreans, Turks, Swiss, Colombians, Americans and Spaniards.

Text originally published on rfi.

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