Thousands of anti-Macron protesters take to Paris streets

Paris: Thousands of people demonstrated in central Paris on Saturday amid a heavy police presence to protest against President Emmanuel Macron’s sweeping reforms, a year after he came to office. Some 2,000 security forces including riot police were deployed as marchers gathered from midday in warm early summer sunshine in the central Opera square for a protest dubbed a “Party for Macron”, a tongue-in-cheek “celebration” of the 40-year-old centrist’s first anniversary in power. Smaller rallies took place in the southern cities of Toulouse and Bordeaux while the Paris variant kicked off with a mass picnic which drew numerous families.
Organisers had urged participants to attend in a party mood — but the high security owed much to hundreds of black-clad youths having torched cars and a McDonald’s restaurant during traditional May 1 demonstrations in the capital, prompting fears that more “black bloc” protesters could hijack Saturday’s event. Organisers insisted the march from Opera to the Bastille area, east of the city centre, would be “joyful and festive.” But government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux had expressed fears on Friday that the demonstration could turn violent. He noted that the protest’s name, the “Fete a Macron”, can have a double meaning in French — either celebrating someone, or trying to do them harm.
“We are worried that there could be violence, and so we’re reinforcing security measures,” Griveaux said, adding the police role was to ensure peaceful demonstrations could go ahead. The protest is the latest in a series of large street demonstrations against Macron, whose overhauls of everything from the education system to the state rail operator have been causing friction with various groups. The demonstration was organised by firebrand LFI lawmaker Francois Ruffin and other ex-members of the Nuit Debout (Up All Night) leftist movement that staged nocturnal rallies across France in 2016. — AFP