Thousands take to streets of France in May Day rallies

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More than 100,000 people marched through cities across France on Sunday as part of the traditional May Day rallies which were given extra piquancy this year coming exactly a week after Emmanuel Macron was voted in for a second term as president.

Trade union leaders as well as left and right wing politicians who failed to reach the second round of polling promoted the nationwide marches as part of the third round of voting.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who came third in the first round of the presidential election on 10 April, was at the spearhead of an estimated 24,000 people who set off from the Place de la Republique towards Place de la Nation in Paris.

Mélenchon, the head of the France Insoumise party, revealed he was close to a deal with leaders from the once powerful Socialist party to form a bloc which would aim to gain enough seats in next month's elections for the National Assembly to thwart Macron's agenda.

Offer

In an interview with the French newspaper Journal du Dimanche, Mélenchon called on the leftwing parties to escape what he described as a permanent culture of defeat.

"We offer them a battle to win. It can be unifying," he told the paper. "They must come out of the losses and assume the will to win."

Mélenchon later hit out at police chiefs for their handling of the march after a group of demonstrators broke away and smashed up shop signs and cars. A firefighter was attacked as he tried to extinguish a blaze.

"I'm fed up," Mélenchon tweeted. "The police prefect knew. Unable to guarantee the right to demonstrate in peace."

France's interior minister Gérald Darmanin said on Sunday night that eight officers had been injured in clashes with demonstrators and 45 people – including the woman who had allegedly attacked the firefighter – had been arrested.

"Mr Mélenchon should support the police, firefighters, gendarmes," Darmanin said in response to the tweet.

"I call on everyone to condemn the violence."

Fire brigade chiefs branded the attack on their officer as "savagery".

"That's enough," they added in a tweet. "Incomprehensible this new aggression towards the firefighters of Paris going about their duties, protect people, property of the City and the smooth running of the demonstration."

According to the CGT union, more than 250 rallies were held across France attracting more than 210,000 people. On Sunday night, the Interior Ministry estimated the figure at just over 116,000 protesters.

During the recent presidential campaign, millions of voters for Mélenchon and the Green parties complained that Macron and the other second round candidate Marine Le Pen had failed to attribute sufficient importance to issues such as climate change and the environment.

Le Pen, who lost to Macron in the run-off on 24 April, was absent from her party’s traditional wreath-laying at the foot of a statue of Joan of Arc in Paris on Sunday.

Jordan Bardella, the interim president of her National Rally party, said: “I’ve come to tell the French that the voting isn’t over.

"There is a third round – the legislative elections. It would be unbelievable to leave full power to Emmanuel Macron.”

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