PARIS (AP), Tens of thousands marched in Europe on Sunday for May Day protests to honour workers and shame governments into doing more work for their citizens. Protesters in France shouted slogans against President Emmanuel Macron, a move that could set the tone for his second term.

Tensions flared in Paris when demonstrators broke windows at banks, fast-food restaurants, and real estate agencies. This was apparently partly the work of black-clad masked men. French police responded by firing tear gas shots. However, that did not stop a woman attacking a firefighter who was trying to put out a street fire.

Gerald Darmanin, Interior Minister, said that 45 people have been arrested so far. This included the young woman. He said that eight police officers were hurt and called the perpetrators of violence “thugs” because they were trying to stop “the right to protest.”

May Day is often a day of intense emotions for European workers. However, protests during the past two years have been restricted by pandemic restrictions.

Turkish police quickly moved into Istanbul to surround protesters near Taksim Square, where 34 people were killed in 1977 in a May Day incident.

According to the Istanbul governor’s office, 164 people were detained by Turkish police for resisting police and protesting without permits on Sunday. An organized May Day union gathering attracted thousands of people to the Asian side in sprawling Istanbul. They sang, chanted, and waved banners.

Franziska Giffey, Berlin Mayor, briefly interrupted her May Day speech at the trade union rally. Someone threw an egg at Giffey but she missed it. Giffey (center-left Social Democrats) was met with loud protests throughout her speech. Giffey described egg tossing as “neither useful nor politically valuable.”

After a two year pandemic lull in Italy, an outdoor mega-concert took place in Rome. It was held after protests and rallies across the country. Many people called for an end of the Russian war in Ukraine and called for improved working conditions. The main rally of the three major labor unions in Italy was held in Assisi on the hilltop, which is a popular spot for peaceful protests.

Daniela Fumarola, head of Italy’s CISL union said that “It’s a May Day for social and civil commitments for peace and work.”

A motorcade in Russia organized by trade unions supporting the invasion of Ukraine ended its cross-country journey in Moscow on Sunday to celebrate May Day. There were 70 vehicles representing Russian regions, from Vladivostok and Astrakhan to participate as well as Russia-backed separatist administrations that control parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk or Luhansk areas.

May Day celebrations in Russia saw antiwar protesters and other bystanders arrested across the country. Some even supported the authorities. Russian legal aid group OVD-Info reports that a man was arrested in Moscow for holding a sign supporting the FSB or President Vladimir Putin.

Discontent was fueled by rising inflation and fears about upcoming food shortages resulting from the war in Ukraine.

Unemployed people, workers, and retirees marched peacefully to Skopje, North Macedonia’s capital, demanding wage increases, and respect for workers’ rights. The annual rate of inflation, which was 8.8% in March, has reached a 14-year high.

Darko Dimovski (head of the Federation of Trade Unions in the country) told the crowd that workers want an all-encompassing wage increase.

He stated that the economic crisis had “eaten up workers’ salaries.”

The May Day rallies in France were held a week following the country’s presidential elections. They were intended to show Macron that there was opposition he could face during his second five year term. The opposition parties, particularly from the far left and far right, seek to overthrow Macron’s government in France’s June parliamentary elections.

Jean-Luc Melenchon was the dominant figure at the Paris march. He placed third in round one of the presidential election. Melenchon is currently in talks with other leftist parties, including the Socialists once-dominant who are struggling to survive. Melenchon appealed for potential allies to help keep Macron’s centrists in check.

He said, “Our goal is victory.”

Around 250 marches and protests took place in France. They all demanded Macron’s policies to put people first, and condemned his plans to raise France’s retirement age to 65. Macron claims that this is the only way for the government to continue providing good retirement benefits.

“May Day is the right time to call for a reduction of working hours. This reduction means one thing — that workers should get a greater share of the wealth,” Melenchon stated, condemning violence at the Paris march which he said was too much to ignore the concerns of workers.

Marine Le Pen, the French far-right leader, was not present at her party’s traditional wreath-laying ceremony at the feet of Joan of Arc. She was replaced by the interim president of her National Rally Party. Macron defeated Le Pen in the presidential election of April 24, and she plans to run for her seat as a lawmaker.

“I have come to tell the French, that the voting is not over. Jordan Bardella, National Rally’s spokesperson, said that there is still a third round: the legislative elections. “It would seem unbelievable to give all power to Emmanuel Macron.”


This report was contributed by Nicole Winfield in Rome and Zeynep Bilginsoy, Istanbul, Demetris Naellas, Athens, Oleg Cetinic, and Zeynep Birginsoy.