Workers and union leaders dusted bulls and flags that had remained locked during the coronavirus blockade to reduce the still-violent – and sometimes violent – May Day marches on Saturday.
Protesters called for greater labor protection amid a pandemic that turned economies and jobs upside down.
In countries that mark May 1 as International Labor Day, the annual celebration of workers’ rights creates a rare sight during a pandemic: large, crowded crowds, with parades marching side by side with clenched fists behind banners.
In Turkey and the Philippines, police prevented May Day protests by blocking viruses and making hundreds of arrests.
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In France, thousands took to the streets with union flags and flags surrounded by and sometimes clashes with riot police. The masks worn by many participants were a reminder of how much life has changed since the last traditional May Day celebrations in 2019.
Riot police clashed with protesters in Paris and the southern city of Lyon. Burning barriers threw clouds of smoke into the air of Paris. Police accuse crowds of apparent efforts to apprehend suspected offenders. BFM-TV reported that police fired small amounts of tear gas. Paris police say they have made 10 arrests.
But most of the dozens of marches convened nationwide in France were held without incident.
Some demonstrations limited by coronavirus restrictions were significantly less well attended than before the pandemic.
Russia saw only a small part of its usual May Day activities amid a ban on collecting coronavirus. The Russian Communist Party attracted only a few hundred people to lay wreaths in Moscow. For the second year in a row in Italy, May Day passed without the usual big processions and rock concerts.
But in France, Germany and elsewhere, rallies were allowed, workers expressed their concerns about work and protection. In Bosnia, coal miner Turni Kadric said he and his colleagues “barely survive”.
In Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy, thousands have expressed anger at the new job law, which critics fear will cut compensation benefits, reduce restrictions on foreign workers and increase outsourcing as the nation seeks to attract more investment. Protesters in the capital, Jakarta, laid replacement graves in the street to symbolize hopelessness, and marches took place in about 200 cities.
In the Philippine capital, Manila, where the one-month coronavirus blockade was extended by two weeks amid rising infections, police prevented hundreds of workers from demonstrating in a public square, protest leader Renato Reyes said. However, protesters briefly gathered on a busy boulevard in Manila, demanding pandemic cash aid, wage subsidies and vaccines against COVID-19 amid rising unemployment and hunger.
“Workers were largely left to fend for themselves while locked up,” said Labor leader Joshua Mata.
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In Turkey, several workers’ leaders were allowed to lay wreaths in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, but riot police stopped many others from reaching the square. The Istanbul governor’s office said 212 people had been detained for violating coronavirus restrictions. Turks are banned from leaving their homes, except to collect basic food and medicine, when blocked until May 17, which aims to stop the growth of infections. Protests were also banned around Taksim Square.
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In Germany, where previous May Day demonstrations were violent, police deployed thousands of officers and warned that rallies would be halted if participants failed to comply with coronavirus restrictions. Protesters in Berlin called for lower rents and higher wages and expressed other concerns. Far-right coronavirus deniers and opponents of virus control measures also marched, police said.
In Italy, police confronted several hundred protesters in the northern city of Turin. In Rome, the Italian head of state paid tribute to workers and health workers.
“The impact of the crisis on women’s work and young people’s access to jobs is particularly severe,” said Italian President Sergio Matarella.