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Hundreds arrested and more than 100 police officers injured as riots break out

The French government has decried “extremely violent thugs” after May Day protests over President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial pension reforms led to more than 290 arrests and over 100 police officers being injured.

Demonstrations took place across Paris, Lyon and Nantes on Monday demanding that Macron overturn his decision to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.

In parts of the capital, peaceful protesters were charged upon by police with tear gas and baton charges – while other demonstrators pelted Paris police with Molotov cocktails and fireworks, torched building materials and smashed up bus stops.

Violence in Lyon and Nantes saw vehicles set ablaze and business premises trashed.

An estimated 800,000 people turned out to protest, interior minister Gerald Darmanin said, on what is traditionally a day of workers’ protests around the world.

Mr Darmanin said police had been confronted by “thugs” looking to “kill police officers and attack the property of others”. He added: “Everyone should condemn the unacceptable violence against law enforcement. Too many are silent in the face of such terrible images. The extreme left must be fought by everyone.”

As of Monday evening, 291 arrests had been made and 108 police officers were injured, he said.

It is not clear how many protesters were injured as police deployed batons, tear gas and water cannon against them.

An explosive explodes during incidents as part of a demonstration in Paris (Photo: Thibault Camus/AP)
Protests continue on Labour Day against the government’s pension reform in Paris (Photo: Firas Abdullah/Anadolu Agency via Getty)
Medics help a man during the traditional May Day labour march (Photo: Benoit Tessier/Reuters)
A journalist lays injured on the ground amid clashes during a protest march (Photo: Pierre Crom/Getty)

Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne said: “In many cities in France, this May Day was a moment of responsible mobilization and commitment. The scenes of violence on the fringes are all the more unacceptable. Support for our law enforcement.”

Macron insists reform is needed to help shore up one of the industrialised world’s most generous pension systems – but opinion polls show a substantial majority of French people oppose the higher retirement age, which was signed into law on 15 April.

“They are trying to change the subject quite quickly, but let’s say it’s not working. So much the better!” said sculptor Antoine Eveillo.

“This 1 May will be a milestone,” said Sophie Binet, leader of the hard-left CGT union. “It will serve to say that we will not move on until this (pension) reform is withdrawn… the executive cannot govern without the support of its people.”

Laurent Berger, head of the reform-minded CFDT trade union, said Macron’s government was deaf to the demands of one of the most powerful social movements in decades.

French union members were joined by groups fighting for economic justice, or just expressing anger at what is seen as Mr Macron’s out-of-touch, pro-business leadership.

Fitch cut France’s sovereign credit rating on Friday by one notch to ‘AA-‘, citing the social unrest and potential political deadlock.

Additional reporting by agencies

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