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Thousands join May Day protests across France, police arrest 34



May Day protests across France on Saturday saw hooded, black-clad demonstrators clashing with police in Paris. Thousands of people across the country joined the protests to demand social and economic justice and to voice their opposition to government plans to change unemployment benefits. The police made 34 arrests.

The ‘Yellow Vest’ movement joined trade unionists. The Yellow Vest movement had triggered wave of anti-government protests three years ago.

Saturday’s marchers wore masks in line with coronavirus rules. They carried banners that read, “Dividends, not unemployment benefits are the income of lazy people,” and, “We want to live, not survive”

The Prefecture de Police, which deployed 5,000 officers in Paris, said it had prevented `Black Bloc` anarchists from forming a group.

“Loads of money is going to those who have plenty and less for those who have nothing as reflected in the unemployment insurance reform plan that we want scrapped,” Philippe Martinez, head of the CGT labour union said.

Check out | May 1: History and significance of International Workers’ Day

About 300 rallies were organised in cities including Lyon, Nantes, Lille and Toulouse.

Far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon and far-right leader Marine Le Pen attended May Day events. Both of them plan to challenge French President Emmanuel Macron in presidential elections next year.

“My wish for the working class is that it can be free of the fear of being unemployed,” Melenchon told a march in Lille, adding he hoped to return to the northern city as president.

Le Pen, who had earlier laid a wreath in Paris at the statue of Joan of Arc, her party’s nationalist symbol, warned of “total chaos” if Macron is re-elected.

(With inputs from agencies)

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