Hundreds arrested and police injured as violence erupts during May Day pension reform protests

1 May 2023, 23:49 | Updated: 2 May 2023, 01:30

290 arrests have been made following clashes between protesters and police
290 arrests have been made following clashes between protesters and police. Picture: Getty

By Chris Samuel

Over 290 arrests have been made and more than 100 police officers have been injured as May Day marches in France against President Macron's pension reform descended into violence.

The union-led marches were held in Paris as part of May Day rallies taking place across Europe.

Protesters in the capital, where there were 90 arrests, also damaged bus stops and threw fireworks and, as police responded with tear gas.

French interior minister Gerald Darmanin said the majority of protests seen in the country were peaceful, but claimed that in Paris, Lyon and Nantes "police are faced with extremely violent thugs who have come with one objective, to kill police officers and attack the property of others", adding: "This violence must be condemned without reservation."

Mr Darmanin said 291 arrests have been made across France with at least 108 police officers injured in the clashes.

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112,000 people gathered for the protests in Paris, according to police in the capital with 782,000 taking to the streets across the country.

French police were seen clashing with protesters and using tear gas as demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails, fireworks, smashed up bus stops and set fire to ride-sharing bikes.

Clashes occur between riot police and demonstrators during a protest on Labour Day against the government pension reform in Paris
Clashes occur between riot police and demonstrators during a protest on Labour Day against the government pension reform in Paris. Picture: Getty

In Nantes and Lyon and Nantes business premises were trashed and some vehicles were set alight.

Unions in France, had been anticipating hundreds and thousands of people join the marches on the first May Day since President Emmanuel Macron's bitterly opposed pensions reforms, and called for a big protest in a bid to reverse the new laws.

The new legislation will see the retirement age raised from 62 to 64, a move that has sparked a succession of protests.

People demonstrate on the streets on the streets of the French capital
People demonstrate on the streets on the streets of the French capital. Picture: Getty

Mr Macron has said that the reform, which he signed into law on April 15, is a necessity.

But opinion polls have shown that a large majority of the French population are opposed to the higher pension age.

The reforms are expected to come into effect by September.

Police hold up protective shields during a protest in Paris
Police hold up protective shields during a protest in Paris. Picture: Getty

The government has promised further talks will take place over the issue but unions are determined to reverse the changes, making it unclear how the dispute could be resolved.

May Day, which falls on May 1, is observed in many countries round the world as a day to celebrate labourers and the working classes with marches and other events.

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