Thousands of people took to the streets in several European countries on Monday, May 1, to mark International Workers’ Day and demand better working conditions, higher wages and social justice.
In France, hundreds of thousands of people marched in what unions hoped were the country’s biggest May Day demonstrations in years. They expressed their anger against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform, which raised the retirement age from 62 to 64 and was signed into law last month despite months of protests. Some radical protesters clashed with police and vandalized businesses in Paris, Lyon, Nantes and other cities. Police used tear gas, water cannon and drones to disperse the crowds and arrested 291 people across the country.
In Germany, labor unions and leftist groups organized hundreds of rallies across the country, with the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) saying 288,000 people took part in the 398 events. The head of the German industrial union IG Metall, Jörg Hofmann, strongly defended the rights of trade unions to strike and criticized the government’s economic policies.
In other European countries, such as Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey, workers and activists also staged marches and rallies to voice their grievances and demands. Some of the common themes were the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on workers’ rights and health, the need for a fair distribution of wealth and income, and the protection of democracy and human rights.
May Day is a traditional celebration of labor rights that dates back to the 19th century. It is observed in more than 80 countries around the world. This year’s protests were marked by an outpouring of worker discontent not seen since before the pandemic.