In Canada, France, Turkey, Finland and Spain, numerous demonstrations marked International Workers' Day despite the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Quebec, hundreds of people gathered in downtown Montreal to recall the importance of respecting workers' rights, especially after a year marked by the health crisis. For the occasion, employees of the health network were honored. In Saguenay, nurses, teachers and workers also demonstrated on the occasion of International Workers' Day, in the Chicoutimi borough.
In France, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in particular, responding to the call from trade unions. After a year 2020 when the COVID-19 epidemic prevented the holding of traditional parades, nearly 300 processions were organized this year in Lyon, Nantes, Lille and Toulouse.
We have many reasons to come and demonstrate: the health and social context, the overall impoverishment of society.
The processions gathered, according to the union of the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), more than 170,000 people, a figure that the government estimates rather at just over 106,000.
In Paris, it was in the rain that participants put up signs criticizing
the breach of labor law and challenged the unemployment insurance reform, which is due to take effect on July 1. Yellow vests joined the procession alongside the unions. Clashes erupted quickly at the start of the parade.
Several garbage cans were set on fire and the window of a bank branch was vandalized. A total of 5,000 police and gendarmes were deployed in the capital, where 46 people were arrested.
In Madrid, Berlin and up to Istanbul
In Spain, the number of participants in the demonstrations was limited due to the pandemic: there were a thousand in Madrid, between the town hall and the Puerta del Sol square.
In the Spanish capital, union leaders Pepe Alvarez (UGT) and Unai Sordo (CCOO), in their speeches, called on the government to keep commitments made, but delayed by the pandemic, such as renouncing a controversial reform of labor laws. work, increase the minimum wage and adopt a law on equal pay for men and women.
In Berlin, a demonstration at the call of the left and the extreme left also gathered some 5,000 people, according to the German police, which had deployed en masse with 5,600 police officers for fear of possible overflows.
Clashes took place on the sidelines of the demonstration. In the early evening, brief incidents opposed members of the far left movement and the police, especially when the latter evacuated some of them from the demonstration.
About twenty rallies were planned in the capital, with slogans ranging from rent increases to migration policy, through opposition to restrictive measures linked to the pandemic.
On the Turkish side, the security forces arrested 212 demonstrators after clashes during parades on May 1. Riot police and plainclothes officers clashed with union leaders and protesters, before arresting dozens of them near Taksim Square in Istanbul.
The governor's office said some unions had been allowed to assemble for May 1, but others, which had assembled illegally in violation of containment and ignored calls to disperse, were arrested. State agency Anadolu reported that 20 protesters were also arrested in Izmir, in the west of the country.
Against health restrictions
In Belgium, Sweden and Finland, hundreds of people have also mobilized to protest against the health measures taken by governments to try to contain the pandemic.
In Brussels, several hundred people notably defied the ban of the Belgian authorities and gathered to
to party in a park.
We are here to defend our freedom. The mask? No, I don't wear it anymore, I want to be free, explained an 18-year-old high school student present at the scene.
It has been going on for a year. A year that you can't go out. After a while, you have to find solutions.
The good-natured atmosphere was tense, however, when a police van arrived on the lawn. The cries were heard:
Freedom, freedom. Then the detonations of firecrackers and the throwing of projectiles pushed the vehicle to turn back, but the Belgian police intervened in force at the end of the afternoon to disperse the participants,
on the grounds that the sanitary measures are not respected, according to the authorities.
The police used water cannons and tear gas, causing crowd movements. During the intervention, one person was injured, as well as two police officers. There were about 15 arrests, while around 100 people were still facing the police in riot gear at around 8 p.m. local time.
On the Helsinki side, around fifty people were arrested during a demonstration organized in protest against the measures taken by the Finnish government to fight COVID-19. The demonstration, which brought together up to 300 people in the center of the Finnish capital, was dispersed by the police, who did not deplore any major incidents.
Public gatherings of more than six people are banned in Helsinki due to the pandemic caused by the coronavirus and organizers had announced a demonstration of six people.
In total, nearly 50 people have been arrested for refusing to comply with authorities' orders. Finland and its 5.5 million inhabitants have one of the best records in Europe when it comes to COVID-19.
In Sweden, between 500 and 600 people demonstrated in the streets of Stockholm for
freedom and truth. The demonstration lasted more than two hours, despite the intervention of the police to disperse it.
Unlike the measures widely imposed elsewhere in Europe, Sweden initially carried out a strategy based mainly on recommendations, without containment and almost without coercive measures.
However, the Scandinavian kingdom has tightened the screws since November due to a major second wave, with several series of measures restricting public gatherings and tables in restaurants.
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