A May Day 'like no other' as coronavirus wipes out France's street rallies

Social media is the stomping ground for this year's May Day protests.
Social media is the stomping ground for this year's May Day protests. Jean-Baptiste Pellerin

For the first time in French union history, May Day is being marked without the traditional street marches – with unions instead forced to improvise as the country carries on its strict coronavirus lockdown.


Online demonstrations, virtual concerts and balcony sing-a-longs will replace the raucous Labour Day parades that typically attract millions – as social media becomes this year's stomping ground for workers.

Street sales of lily of the valley are prohibited, with producers estimating that 70 percent of their production will be lost. The flowers – a symbol of luck and the arrival of spring – will, however, still be available in supermarkets and some other essential shops that have remained open during the lockdown.

In a surprise video address to the nation, French President Emmanuel Macron said the sprit of May Day and solidarity between workers had never been more powerful.

"This May 1 is like no other ... I am mindful of all the constraints weighing on the joys associated with this very symbolic day," Macron said.

“I want to spare a thought for the unions that cannot hold these parades, a thought for the workers of our country … Because it is thanks to the workers that the nation keeps running.

"It is thanks to the dedication of our caregivers, our police, our armies that we save so many lives every day. It is thanks to the work of our farmers, our civil servants, our employees, our freelancers that life goes on despite everything.”

Covid-19 has killed 24,376 people in France, including 289 deaths recorded over the last 24 hours. The country is due to gradually exit two months of lockdown from 11 May.

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