109 in police custody after May 1 Paris violence

Cars and buildings were left burned and smashed as militant violence swept the streets

Over one hundred people have been arrested and taken into police custody after violence erupted in Paris yesterday (May 1).

The number of those in custody had been announced as 102, but today it had reached 109 people, with the violence condemned by some as the "worst since 1968".

In total, 283 people were arrested and four lightly injured after rioting and violence broke out between police and extreme-left, masked and hooded militants, as the traditional Union Fête du Travail march took place.

One of the injured was a CRS (a security police officer), who received a paving stone blow to their back.

Shops and businesses were also attacked; by 23h30 last night, 31 shops had been confirmed as damaged and smashed, of which two had been burned. Six vehicles had also been torched and a further 10 were found to have been vandalised.

Anti-capitalist grafitti was also painted and scrawled on walls.

Police estimated that there were 20,000 unionists taking part in the usual Fête du Travail march, although union CGT put the number at a considerably-higher 55,000.

Alongside this, 14,500 people were estimated to have shown up outside the official remit of the march, of which 1,200 identified themselves as “black blocs”.

These are extreme-left militants who are - according to political commentator Eddy Fougier, who spoke to news source France Info - “adept at damaging things that they consider to be symbolic”.

These black blocs were among those to cause problems for the police yesterday, staying in the streets of the city’s Quartier Latin, and provoking violence long after the official march had finished.

President Emmanuel Macron, who is currently in Australia, said he “absolutely, firmly condemned the violence” and criticised those who had “corrupted the march on May 1”. He added: “We will do everything we can to identify the perpetrators and hold them responsible for their actions."

Questions have since been asked about whether there were enough police on the ground ahead of the march, and whether enough had been done to deal with the presence of the black bloc rioters - whose arrival at the scene had been anticipated beforehand.

Questions have also been asked about the State's use of teargas and water cannon to dispel rioters.

Similarly, discord has erupted between political parties, with those on the right and extreme right accusing the government of not doing more to dispel the extreme left groups, and those on the left condemning the violence as a “derailing of the social movement” by “morons”.

Interior minister Gérard Collomb condemned the violence, but said that the political class could perhaps be held responsible for the rhetoric used ahead of the march.

He used the same words as deputy of La France Insoumise party, François Ruffin, who declared last week that he wanted to “celebrate Macron” as part of an event he was planning for May 5 (not the May 1 march).

Mr Collomb, who denied he was explicitly referring to Mr Ruffin, said: “When you have part of the political class that is calling for people to ‘celebrate Macron’, there will be some who take that literally [against it / against Macron's economic policies]. I am worried that some people were provoked by that spiral of words, and committed unspeakable acts the next day.”

Stay informed:
Sign up to our free weekly e-newsletter
Subscribe to access all our online articles and receive our printed monthly newspaper The Connexion at your home. News analysis, features and practical help for English-speakers in France

More articles from French news
More articles from Connexion France
Other articles that may interest you