Chaos and colour in May Day rallies across the globe


PARIS, May 2, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Traditional May Day rallies turned violent in some parts of the world on Tuesday, as workers gathered to defend labour rights. There was looting in Paris and dozens of arrests in Turkey, in contrast to Cuba with its colourful celebrations and new leader.

Here is a round-up of some of the biggest events on the annual workers’ holiday.

– Paris riots, looting –

A march against French President Emmanuel Macron’s public sector reforms descended into riots in central Paris.

On the sidelines of the May Day union-led demonstration for workers’ rights, chaos erupted when a group of protesters began torching a McDonald’s restaurant and vehicles at a car dealership.

Around 1,200 people in black jackets and face masks shouted slogans such as “Rise up, Paris” and “Everyone hates the police”.

Police, who had warned of the risk of extremist groups using the march to spark fresh clashes, used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the protests and arrested nearly 300 demonstrators.

The scenes of looting and destruction overshadowed the May Day march, which drew between 20,000 and 55,000 peaceful protesters, according to police and union estimates.

– Burning effigy in Philippines –

A giant demon representing Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was burned by protesters near the presidential palace in a lively Labour Day rally.

Thousands of workers marched in Manila to voice anger over what they said was the president’s failure to scrap short-term employment contracts.

Police said some 5,500 people attended the marches and that the events were “generally peaceful”.

– Tense crackdown in Turkey –

Key protest areas were closed off in Istanbul, with the annual workers’ holiday often the occasion for confrontation between demonstrators and police in Turkey.

Protesters who sought to defy the ban in central Taksim Square were taken away by police, supported by helicopters, armoured cars and water cannon vehicles.

Police said they arrested 84 people in Istanbul.

Thousands of people took part in officially sanctioned May 1 events in the Istanbul district of Maltepe and in other cities, at a time when political tensions are running high ahead of snap parliamentary and presidential elections in June.

– Show of hope in Cuba –

In Havana, the first May Day march of the post-Castro era drew a colourful crowd of close to a million people.

Cubans carried posters of the Castro brothers and fellow revolutionary Che Guevara and unfurled huge copies of the country’s flag, while children dressed as soldiers bounced on their parents shoulders.

The annual Workers’ Day march at the capital’s Revolution Square was the first major appearance for new president Miguel Diaz-Canel, who was accompanied by his predecessor Raul Castro.

Parades also took place across Latin America, with thousands rallying in support of embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his socialist government outside the presidential palace in Caracas.

The crisis-wracked US territory of Puerto Rico saw protesters clash with riot police over pension cuts, school closures and slow recovery efforts seven months after Hurricane Maria slammed into the island.

– Flowers and stones –

Riot police meanwhile were deployed to control crowds in Medellin, Colombia, where protesters threw stones at officers during clashes.

In Berlin, police officers looked on as demonstrators dressed in black from the “Revolutionary 1st of May Demonstration” lit flares. According to unions, some 500 events were planned nationwide, with many held under the slogan of “solidarity, diversity and justice”.

But in Athens demonstrators carried red carnations in union marches through the Greek capital. One of the largest demonstrations of the Greek Communist Labour Union attracted at least 11,000 people.

More than 2,000 leftist supporters of Brazil’s former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is serving a 12-year sentence for corruption, gathered in front of the Federal Police headquarters in Curitiba where he is being held.

Wearing red and holding aloft signs calling for his release, they marked May Day by staging a “Good Morning Lula” event.