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Thousands march in May Day protests across France

Thousands march in May Day protests across France
© Getty Images

Thousands of people gathered across cities in France on Saturday in honor of May Day, with many demonstrators vocalizing their opposition to recent proposed changes to unemployment benefits. 

Despite continued coronavirus-era restrictions across the country, demonstrators from trade unionists to members of the “Yellow Vest” movement that rose to prominence three years ago gathered for roughly 300 rallies across France Saturday. 

The demonstrations come a year after the pandemic canceled most in-person events in the country in honor of May Day, or International Workers’ Day, the annual celebration of spring which for decades has been used as an occasion to defend workers’ rights. 

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Photos and videos shared on social media showed protesters gathered in the streets of Paris, as well as other French cities like Lyon, Nantes, Lille and Toulouse. 

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The protesters, most of whom wore face masks, held signs like, "We want to live, not survive,” and, "Dividends, not unemployment benefits are the income of lazy people.” 

Philippe Martinez, head of the CGT labour union, told Reuters that the recent unemployment reform plan proposed in France would give “loads of money [to] those who have plenty and less to those who have nothing.” 

While the majority of French protests Saturday remained peaceful, Reuters noted that about 5,000 police officers were deployed to respond to the protests in Paris, where at least 17 people were arrested. 

In Lyon, police disbanded a group of roughly 200 people who were throwing fireworks, according to the news agency. 

The demonstrations come as much of France remains under its third coronavirus lockdown, though French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronBiden to record video message for 'Vax Live' concert EU leaders criticize Biden push to waive COVID-19 vaccine patents: Not a 'magic bullet' EU urges Biden administration to increase vaccine exports MORE on Thursday outlined plans to gradually lift restrictions, starting with the reopening of schools next week, followed by museums, outdoor cafes and other specified shops later in the month. 

As demonstrators marched in France, May Day protests in other countries across the globe were less peaceful as police sought to carry out coronavirus-related curfews and other safety measures. 

In Turkey, police detained more than 200 people following scuffles with demonstrators, according to Reuters

The Istanbul governor’s office said that while some labor unions were permitted to hold protests and other May Day events, authorities ordered other groups who "gathered illegally" in violation of the lockdown to disperse, with those who ignored the order detained. 

Turkey remains under a 17-day partial lockdown imposed this week amid a new wave of COVID-19 cases. The limited shutdown includes stay-at-home orders, as well as closures of schools and some businesses, Reuters reported. 

Thousands of workers in Indonesia also took to the streets Saturday, with many protesting a new Job Creation Law that opponents say will harm laborers by reducing severance pay, increasing outsourced jobs and converting monthly salaries to hourly wages, among other changes, according to The Associated Press.