Scuffles Break Out at May Day Rally in Paris

Riot police restrain a man during a May Day demonstration in Paris on Wednesday. (AP photo/Francois Mori)

BERLIN (AP) — French protesters and police clashed briefly in Paris as thousands of people gather for a May Day march. Demonstrators were arrested at several rallies in Russia and workers’ celebrations were held around the world.

In Paris, authorities feared some troublemakers could join anti-government protesters and union workers.

Police used some tear gas to control a crowd near Paris’ Montparnasse train station.

Associated Press reporters saw groups of hooded people in black shouting anti-police slogans, mixing with other protesters wearing yellow vests or waving union flags.

French authorities warned that “radical activists” may join the Paris demonstration and renew scenes of violence that marked yellow vest protests and May Day demonstrations in the past two years.

More than 7,400 police have been deployed in Paris.

Yellow vests have joined traditional May Day union march to show their common rejection of French President Emmanuel Macron’s economic policies.

In Spain, workers marched on May Day in major cities to make their voices heard days before acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez starts negotiating with other parties to form a new government.

Spain’s leading labor unions are pressing for Sánchez to roll back business-friendly labor and fiscal reforms that have remained in place since the previous conservative administration.

Sánchez’s Socialist party won Sunday’s election, but will need other parties to form a government and pass laws. Sánchez will meet with the leaders of the three other top vote-getters next week. The far-left United We Can party is offering to enter the new Socialist government.

Unai Sordo, leader of Spain’s CCOO union, said in Madrid that “the result of the general elections gives us the possibility for a progressive political majority.”

In Russia, activists say more than a dozen people have been detained in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city, for participating in an unsanctioned political protest on May Day.

The OVD-Info group that monitors detentions of political activists said at least 15 people were detained at the May Day rally in St. Petersburg. Most of them are supporters of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The activists were marching with the main May Day demonstration through central St. Petersburg. Some carried placards saying “Putin is not immortal.” President Vladimir Putin has been at the helm of the country since 2000.

Russian authorities said about 100,000 people took part in a May Day rally in central Moscow. Moscow police said Wednesday that the rally was organized by Kremlin-friendly trade unions on Red Square.

Over the years, May Day in Russia has been transformed from an occasion for rallies for workers’ rights to an official event carefully orchestrated by Kremlin-controlled groups.

Opposition activists, however, often try to use the May Day to promote their agenda.

The respected activists’ group OVD-Info said that six political activists were detained in Moscow before the morning rallies. Separately, in the remote Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in Russia’s Far East, police arrested at least 10 people who showed up at the May Day rally wearing yellow vests in an apparent nod to the protest movement in France.

An opposition party in South Africa is using May Day to rally voters a week before the country’s national election.

Economic Freedom Fighters members, wearing their signature red shirts and berets,  gathered at a stadium in Johannesburg to cheer in support of populist stances that have put pressure on the ruling African National Congress to address economic inequality and land reform.

The EFF has made some South Africans uncomfortable, however, with comments about foreigners and whites.

Greece was left without national rail, island ferry and other transport services for a day as unions held strikes and rallies to celebrate May Day.

Hundreds of people gathered in central Athens Wednesday for three separate rallies and marches to parliament organized by rival unions and left-wing groups.

The Greek capital was left without public bus, trolley bus and urban rail services all day due to a 24-hour transport union strike, although the city’s metro trains were running most of the day.

The national train and island ferry services are to resume Thursday.

Turkish police detained May Day demonstrators who tried to march toward Istanbul’s symbolic main square in defiance of a ban.

Turkey declared Taksim Square off limits to May Day celebrations, citing security concerns. Roads leading to the square were blocked Wednesday and police allowed only small groups of labor union representatives to lay wreaths at a monument.

Small groups chanting “May Day is Taksim and it cannot be banned,” attempted to break the blockade. The official Anadolu news agency said more than two dozen were arrested.

Trade unions and political parties marked the day with rallies at government-designated areas in Istanbul and the capital, Ankara.

Taksim holds symbolic value for Turkey’s labor movement. In 1977, 34 people were killed there during a May Day event when shots were fired into the crowd from a nearby building.

In more than a dozen German cities, Germany’s biggest trade unions urged voters to participate in this month’s European elections and reject nationalism and right-wing populism.

The DGB, a confederation of unions with almost 6 million members, said Wednesday that the European Union has helped ensure peace on the continent for decades and brought significant benefits to millions, from paid holidays to maternity protection.

The unions called for ambitious EU-wide investments to boost employment and growth, saying “people must feel that the EU improves their lives in a lasting and tangible way.”

The unions warned that the political and economic turmoil in Britain after its vote to leave the European Union nationalism “shows what happens if those who stoke fear but have no plan for the future gain the upper hand.”

And in Asia, thousands of trade union members and activists marked May Day by marching through the continent’s capitals, demanding better working conditions and expanding labor rights.

A South Korean major umbrella trade union issued a joint statement with a North Korean workers’ organization, calling for the Koreas to push ahead with engagement commitments made during a series of inter-Korean summits last year.

Many of the plans agreed between the Koreas, including joint economic projects, have been held back by lack of progress in nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang.

May Day rallies also were held in the Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Myanmar and elsewhere in Asia.

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