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Home / International / Clashes as May Day protesters march in cities across Europe

Clashes as May Day protesters march in cities across Europe

Worst violence occurs in Paris but trouble also flares in Berlin, Gothenburg and St Petersburg.

Police and protesters have clashed, sometimes violently, in cities across Europe as tens of thousands of trade unionists, anti-capitalists and other demonstrators marched in traditional May Day rallies.

The worst confrontations were in Paris, where riot police fired teargas and stingball grenades as a 40,000-strong crowd, included gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protesters and an estimated 2,000 masked and hooded “black bloc” activists, marched from Montparnasse station to Place d’Italie.

While most of the marchers were peaceful, more than 250 people were arrested after police were hit with stones, bottles and other projectiles.

Over 74 thousand police and gendarmes were on duty on Wednesday with orders to respond firmly in what the government called “a security operation on an exceptional scale”. Streets and several metro stations were closed and 580 businesses boarded up along the route of the march.

Drones used to track protesters’ movements. About 12,500 pre-emptive searches were also carried out under new zero-tolerance anti-riot laws that also make it an offense to wear a mask during street protests.

German police were also braced for violence in Berlin, with as many as 20,000 mainly leftwing demonstrators expected to focus on the eastern district of Friedrichshain in a growing protest against the rapid spread of gentrification in parts of the city formerly behind the iron curtain.

There were arrests, too, in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city, when protesters threw cobblestones and fireworks at police as they were kept away from reaching an officially sanctioned rally by a neo-Nazi group, and in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, where police circled a group of hooded youths in black.

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In Italy, three people including a police officer were injured when police blocked a demonstration against a high-speed trans-Alpine rail tunnel between France and Italy by protesters including politicians from the Five Star Movement, part of the coalition government.

More than 100 people were arrested at May Day rallies across Russia, mostly in St Petersburg, an activist group said. Anti-government protesters, including supporters of the opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, carried placards saying: “Putin is not immortal” and complained of being manhandled by police.

Spain’s workers marched to make their voices heard before the acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, begins negotiations on forming a new government after Sunday’s elections. Unions want Sánchez to roll back business-friendly labor and tax policies that have remained in place since the previous conservative administration.

Greece, meanwhile, was left without national rail and ferry services for the day as trade unions called a 24-hour strike and rallies to mark labor day. Athens had no public bus, tram or urban rail services, although metro trains were running, according to the Guardian news.

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