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Thousands gather in European cities to mark May Day for the first time since the pandemic began

Police in Paris fired tear gas at protestors after scuffles broke out.

Spanish trade unions returned to the streets in Madrid for May Day 2021.
Spanish trade unions returned to the streets in Madrid for May Day 2021.
Image: R4969 Juan Carlos Rojas

CROWDS HAVE GATHERED in cities across the world today to celebrate International Workers’ Day against the backdrop of the pandemic.

In Spain, thousands of protestors rallied in 70 cities to mark May Day for the first time since the initial outbreak of Covid-19 last year.

Wearing masks and observing social distancing, demonstrators marched through the streets waving banners although in many places, numbers were capped to ensure anti-Covid measures were respected.

The main demonstration in Madrid, which was limited to 1,000 people, began at midday under the slogan “Now it’s time to deliver” with the participants marching from the town hall to the city’s Puerta del Sol square.

Addressing the crowd, Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz said employment will be key to economic recovery in the post-pandemic world.

“The crisis has made us face up to an outdated labour model, based on casual work, seasonal employment and inequality,” she said.

“This 1 May is not just any other day because the values of dignified employment, solidarity, equality and social justice are undoubtedly the most effective response to the economic and social crisis we’re experiencing.” 

In Barcelona, some 3,000 people joined the May Day marches, unions said, while in Mallorca, demonstrators joined a vehicle convoy in the capital Palma to avoid the rain, RTVE television reported.

Paris scuffles

In Paris, meanwhile, French police fired tear gas at thousands of protestors following scuffles with the crowd.

Police sources say some protesters smashed the windows of bank branches, set fire to dustbins and threw projectiles at police.

Five arrests were made in Lyon after clashes with police.

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The CGT union said nearly 300 May Day protests were planned around the country, with authorities expecting around 100,000 demonstrators to join them in total.

The crowds held placards with different demands, ranging from the end of the nighttime curfew in place as part of coronavirus restrictions, to a halt to unemployment reforms due to come into force in July.

Members of the yellow vest anti-elite movement, which rocked Emmanuel Macron’s presidency two years ago before largely fizzling out, could also be spotted at protests up and down the country.

Additional reporting by Ian Curran

 

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