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Traditional May 1 marches expected to be quiet in France today

More than 250 protests are planned across the country but union heads say there is a ‘morose mood’ so soon after the presidential election

Protesters with union banners march

May 1 is traditionally associated with worker’s rights in France, with union marches organised to mark the tradition Pic: GERARD BOTTINO / Shutterstock

Traditional May 1 protest marches are expected to take place without violence today in France, unions have said, with relatively few protesters predicted just one week after the presidential election.

May 1 is traditionally associated with worker’s rights in France, with union marches organised for the “Journée internationale du travail” (International Work Day, or Labour Day) as a result.

Read more: A brief history of the May 1 holiday in France 

Union representatives from unions including the CGT, the FO, FSU, Solidaires and Unsa have all planned marches today, with many people having taken to the streets in honour of the day.

Tens of thousands are expected to march across 255 events nationwide, Around 20,000 people are expected in Paris, with 1,500 law enforcement officers on the ground. Events are also taking place in cities and towns including Marseille, Nantes, Rennes, Lyon, Dunkirk, Dijon and Strasbourg.

However, protests are predicted to remain relatively quiet, largely due to it being so soon after the election, because it is a Sunday, and because it falls between school holiday dates for zones A and C. 

Fabrice Angéi, secretary at the CGT, told Le Figaro: “Our concern recently was to ensure that the far-right was defeated…if we had had a fortnight more to prepare, it would have been better.”

Now that far-right former candidate Marine Le Pen has been “defeated”, he said, “it is now a question of how to make this the first protest meeting of the new [Emmanuel Macron] five-year period”.

Adrien Quatennens, Nord MP from the defeated La France Insoumise party (LFI, left-wing, which came third in the elections), said that the protests today are “an opportunity to put forward social demands",  and said that they are "undoubtedly a political outlet" ahead of the forthcoming legislative elections.

He said: "All this is not over. There is indeed an opportunity" for LFI supporters to make themselves heard at the ballot box, he said.

Yves Veyrier, head of the FO, said: “For many, Macron is a relief. But it's not a huge win either. We're more in a morose mood.”

Grievances on today’s agenda include low purchasing power, low wages, soaring prices, the ecological emergency and Mr Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age to 65, he said.

Union CFDT is set to protest climate change above all else, and is organising a march for this afternoon that is open to everyone, including families.

Laurent Escure, head of Unsa, said that the union would march alongside the CGT to express the “explosive anger” workers have over decreasing purchasing power.

This year’s protests come after only around 100,000 people marched across the country on May 1 last year, with many marches marred by the presence of violent “black blocks” protesters.

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