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100+ detained after Paris May Day demo violence

A demonstrator confronts police on the Paris May Day demonstration
A demonstrator confronts police on the Paris May Day demonstration Fuente: Reuters.

Some 109 alleged rioters were in detention in Paris police stations on Wednesday morning after violence on the trade unions' May Day demonstration the day before. On a visit to Australia, President Emmanuel Macron condemned the clashes, while Prime Minister Edouard Philippe claimed that "radical statements" had encouraged them.

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"The 1 May is the day of the workers, not the day of the rioters," Macron said at a press conference in Sydney.

While telling journalists he made it a rule not to discuss French politics when abroad, the president condemned the violence "with the utmost firmness", as he had already done in a tweet.

With a left-wing demonstration against Macron planned for 5 May, Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said there would be heavier policing on future protests "with the intention of totally separating the demonstrators and those who want violence".

PM Edouard Philippe condemns a "radical ideology that wants to smash what our police represent"

The May Day rioters set fire to a MacDonalds restaurant and damaged 30 other businesses, according to police, who also reported that six vehicles were set on fire and 10 others damaged.

Police responded with teargas and water cannon.

Four people were reported injured, one a riot police officer who was hit by a cobblestone.

The damage and injuries are less serious than during last year's demonstrations against Macron's labour law reform.

Black Bloc blamed

The violence has been blamed on the Black Bloc, an anarchist movement that seeks confrontation with the police on demonstrations across Europe.

The authorities say that 1,200 Black Bloc activists mixed with 14,500 other demonstrators who were separated from the main trade union procession, making it impossible for police to isolate and tackle them effectively.

Chants during the clashes included "Rise up, Paris!" and "Everyone hates the police!" and social network postings beforehand had promised a "day in hell", accompanied by photos of police officers on fire.

Initially, 283 people were arrested and 109 were still in detention on Wednesday morning.

Police criticised

Left-winger Nicolas Lescaut claims he was teargassed to stop him filming police

Replying to trade union leader Philippe Martinez's complaint that the police had not done their job, Collomb claimed on Wednesday that the trouble-makers came in disguise and donned their trade-mark black clothing, masks and helmets after mixing with the crowd.

The violence was "on an unheard-of scale", he said, although vandalism and fighting with the police are not new on demonstrations in Paris and there were clashes during protests against labour law reform last year and under the previous government.

Both Collomb and Philippe insinuated that the government's opponents were in part responsible for the violence.

"Pay attention to the phrases you use because some young people can be influenced by them," Collomb said, while Philippe declared that "the irresponsibility of radical statements ... encourages such behaviour".

Hard-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, for his part, claimed that "far-right gangs" were responsible for the rioting. National Front leader Marine Le Pen blamed "far-left militias" and called for them to be banned, while mainstream-right leader Laurent Wauquiez joined her in calling for the government to get tough.

Peaceful marches elsewhere in France

Across France about 143,000 people joined May Day marches, which passed off peacefully in the rest of the country.

With a number of strike movements under way, the numbers were up on last year and railworkers were reported to have joined the protests en masse in some towns.

Martinez's CGT called for a "convergence" of strikes and protests against Macron's policies but failed to convince two other major union groupings to join the demonstrations.

Mélenchon, who joined the demonstration in Marseille where his constituency is, complained about the splt in the unions but claimed that unity was being forged at rank-and-file level.

Organisers of the 5 May demonstration on Wednesday announced they would beef up stewarding to ensure that their "Macron party" was "festive and joyous".

To read What is May Day? click here

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