Demonstrators protest in Paris and other French cities on May Day
People attend the annual May Day labour union march in Paris, France, on 1st May 2021, despite the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.
Thousands of people rallied across France amid COVID-19 constraints, to demand social and economic justice and express opposition to government proposals to reform unemployment insurance, on Saturday.
Around 300 rallies were held in Paris, as well as in Lyon, Nantes, Lille, and Toulouse.
Members of the "Yellow Vest" campaign, which sparked a wave of anti-government demonstrations three years ago, and workers from industries hit hard by pandemic sanctions, such as entertainment, joined trade unionists in Paris.
Marchers held banners reading "Dividends, not unemployment benefits, are the money of lazy people" and "We want to work, not survive," most of whom wore masks in accordance with COVID-19 regulations.
"As expressed in the unemployment insurance reform package that we want to be repealed, a lot of money is going to those who have a lot and less to those who have none," said Philippe Martinez, head of the CGT labour union.
The majority of the protests were peaceful, while police in Lyon dispersed a group of about 200 people who were throwing fireworks, according to the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes prefecture on Social media.
As per the Paris Prefecture de Police, 17 people have been detained in Paris, where 5,000 police officers have been deployed.
A few hooded, black-clad protesters fought police or hurled stones and garbage bins. Anarchists knew as the 'Black Bloc' was allegedly stopped from forming a party by police.
Both far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon and far-right leader Marine Le Pen attended May Day activities, with both plannings to challenge President Emmanuel Macron in next year's presidential election.
"My dream for the working class is to be free of the fear of unemployment," Melenchon said at a rally in Lille, adding that he hoped to return to the northern city as president on 1st May next year.
Le Pen had laid a wreath at the statue of Joan of Arc in Paris, which her party uses as a nationalist symbol, earlier in the day, warning of "total chaos" if Macron is re-elected.
Macron, a former investment banker, was elected president in 2017 with the promise of a new approach to politics.
However, much of his reform agenda has been stymied by labour disputes, and the pandemic has put a stop to his efforts to reform the pension system.
After a drop in infection rates, France, which has the eighth-highest number of coronavirus deaths in the world, will begin unwinding its third pandemic lockdown on Monday.