Photo Essay View photos from Paris here

Update: 4:30 p.m. PST:

According to a media consortium in Paris, some 40,000 demonstrators had assembled in the city for the May Day demonstrations, including union members, “Yellow Vest” protestors and vandals. The New York Times noted that members of Black Bloc had put out calls on social media for a mass gathering in Paris, and several violent clashes were reported throughout the day. The French government deployed 7,400 officers to various centers of activity within Paris’ bounds.

Near Paris’ Montparnasse train station, Black Bloc-affiliated protesters allegedly became aggressive, at times threatening other participants trying to film the day’s events. There was a significant contrast between the tone and actions of groups gathered at one end of that area to the other. One side of the march, toward the back, was a zone of heavy confrontation, violence and tear gas, while those in the front were mostly unharmed and kept the peace:

Paris police searched the bags of all those arriving at demonstrations, allowing marchers to keep their gas masks, which would come in handy for many that day.

According to local police reports, 250 people were arrested, mostly for offenses related to rioting.

President Macron attempted last week to appease the Yellow Vests and the greater French population when he promised to lower taxes and raise pensions, but his proposals have been largely rejected from those within the Yellow Vest movement.

The New York Times elaborated on Wednesday:

Nicole Courte, 56, a maid who was marching with Mr. Koucha, said Mr. Macron’s response to the movement had been: “I’ve heard you, but shut up, I won’t change anything.”

“I’ve been protesting since the first act, on Nov. 17, but I boycotted the so-called Great National Debate,” Ms. Courte said, referring to the national consultation initiated by Mr. Macron to quell the protesters’ anger.

Ms. Courte, who said she earned minimum wage in Saint-Avold, a village in Moselle, also criticized the millionaires and others who had donated to restore Notre-Dame cathedral, gutted by a fire last month. In such times, she said, donating for a building and not for the poor was “indecent, shameful.”

“How much housing for the poor and the homeless could we build with a billion euros?” she asked, referring to the amount raised for Notre-Dame in 10 days.

Cédric Topical, a 42-year-old baker, had come down from France’s north to demonstrate. “I’ve got two daughters, and I’m demonstrating for them, since the beginning,” he said. “By the 15th of the month I’ve got to tighten my belt and I only eat one meal a day. So how are they supposed to make it?”

6:46 a.m. PST:

May Day is a workers holiday with varied roots, as Truthdig’s Paul Street points out in his  piece, “The Many-Sided, Overlapping Meanings of May Day.” This year, as global inequality continues to soar to never-before-seen heights, protesters have taken to the streets in cities around the world to express their growing discontent, as well as to celebrate workers and hard-earned (though often beleaguered) labor rights. From Seoul to Seattle, protests were planned for Wednesday, and, in many places, officials drew up blueprints for addressing the mass demonstrations that were expected.

In Paris, a city that has been the site of the growing Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) movement, over 7,400 police officers were expected to be deployed. Early in the day, officers began to use tear gas against the demonstrators, according to The Independent:

Around 165 protesters have been arrested in Paris–some of them throwing stones, lighting fires and smashing vehicles, police said.

Police repeatedly used tear gas to try to control the crowd gathering near Montparnasse train station for the main protest. It wasn’t immediately clear how many people were injured.

One bandaged-up man with a head wound was helped away from the scene by paramedics.

The French protests were fueled in part by President Emmanuel Macron’s latest economic proposals, issued in response to Gilets Jaunes demands but which promise to continue to “liberalize the French economy” with measures that include wealth tax cuts.

The Gilets Jaunes protesters were joined on the streets of Paris and other French towns and cities by left-wing activists and trade unionists, as they were in protests over the weekend that were considered a dry run for Wednesday’s actions.  Truthdig’s Donald Kaufman was on the scene in Paris at the combined labor and climate marches, where he was able to record several videos, some of which you can watch below:


For more live updates from Paris, visit our Facebook page.

Your support matters…

Independent journalism is under threat and overshadowed by heavily funded mainstream media.

You can help level the playing field. Become a member.

Your tax-deductible contribution keeps us digging beneath the headlines to give you thought-provoking, investigative reporting and analysis that unearths what's really happening- without compromise.

Give today to support our courageous, independent journalists.