For anyone that has been watching the political situation in France during the last year and especially the last week, as the first round of the presidential elections was held, it was very clear that this May 1st in Paris would be a remarkable day. The big workers unions and antifascists mobilized for a joint demonstration from Place de la Republique over Place de la Bastille to Place de la Nation. Police deployed 2000 officers, expecting up to 40.000 participants at the demonstration. Also the danger of a terror attack was discussed by officials in advance. The maybe historic Mayday demonstration in 2017 quickly turned violent and heavy riots continued during the whole march.
Festivities at Place de la Republique
At noon Place de la Republique – a traditional place to gather for protest in a rather touristic area – was already crowded with people. Different music was playing. Kurdisch activists showing support with the workers’ party of Kurdistan, were therefore waving PKK flags and dancing. A variety of grilled food was sold. A banner praising Marxism and Leninism was placed in the middle of the square. Red flags with hammer and sickle were attached to statues overlooking the place. People with flags, signs and banners against LePen – but as well against Macron – were pouring onto the square. Lots of people were getting ready for the rally through the city.
Violent Mayday demonstration
Workers’ unions like the CGT and other had organized the event. Participating with trucks and balloons they were setting everything in place. Several thousand people got together and formed a black block in the first part of the big demo. Just after a few meter the first escalation started. Riot police was getting close and protestors started throwing stones, bottles and pyrotechnics. This was answered by police very quickly with tear-gas. The situation escalated with police in between antifascist protestors leading to several riots going on at the same time. As there were also Molotov cocktails thrown at police forces on site those answered with rubber bullets. The fighting continued the whole demonstration. Plenty demonstrators were wounded. There are reports on Twitter about broken lenses of colleagues and violence against those. Rubber bullets were also fired at journalists.
After all the escalation does not come by surprise. Exactly in between the two election rounds with ‚the problem and it’s cause‘ in the second round peoples anger could clearly be felt. This especially displayed when the black block was marching in the beginning, lighting smoke grenades, and – rather old – people standing at the side of the street were shouting: ‚Revolution, revolution, revolution…‘. France, representing Europe, seems to be at a historic turning point or point of no return.