109 in Custody in Paris Over May Day Violence

Activists clash with riot police during the traditional May Day rally in the center of Paris, France, on May 1, 2018. Each year, people around the world take to the streets to mark International Workers’ Day, or May Day. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

PARIS (AP) — Some 109 people were in custody Wednesday suspected of offenses including carrying prohibited weapons and firing projectiles after May Day protests against reforms by French President Emmanuel Macron turned violent in Paris, French authorities said.

France’s Interior Minister Gerard Collomb visited the site of heated demonstrations Tuesday in the city’s Left Bank, where six cars were burnt, a McDonald’s restaurant smashed up and automobile shops vandalized.

“We’re searching for the ringleaders,” Collomb said, adding that such acts “will not go unpunished.”

Authorities blamed the violence on masked attackers from a libertarian group called the Black Blocs that numbered around 1,200 people in total and were on the margins of the 20,000-strong protest.

Several people, including a police service worker and a cameraman from Iranian state television IRIB, were injured. Collomb told France 2 Television he was pleased “no one was seriously injured.”

Paris Police Prefect Michel Delpuech said “the desire of the radical activists was to spiral the day out of control.”

Opposition figures seized upon the absence of Macron, who was on a visit to Australia, to paint an image of disorder in a country without a leader amid criticism that police did not act quickly enough to cope with the violence.

Macron responded from Sydney: “There is a government. There is a state that’s being run and it will continue to react.”

Workers, students and others marched through cities around France during the May Day protests, aimed at expressing discontent over Macron’s plans to overhaul some employee protections.

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