Unions are back on the streets across the country

A union parade in the streets of Douai, May 1, 2021. – Francois Greuez

The Covid-19 is there, the mobilization too. For the second year in a row, the unions are celebrating this Saturday, May 1, the International Workers’ Day in the midst of the coronavirus epidemic. “Last year there was frustration not being able to parade. We are resuming our good habits “, rejoiced the secretary general of the CGT, Philippe Martinez, on Europe 1. While the health situation remains delicate,” we are not unconscious (..) we are careful, we are masked ” , he assured.

The central Montreuil called, with FO, the FSU and Solidaires, to make May 1 a “day of mobilization and demonstrations”, “for employment, wages, public services, social protection, freedoms and peace in the world “. The CGT recorded nearly 300 events in France. The authorities expect around 100,000 demonstrators across the country. In 2019, the Ministry of the Interior had counted 164,000 demonstrators, and the CGT 310,000. “We do not expect massive mobilizations. What we wanted was to mark the fact that we are there and that we will be there. It’s a warning, ”said FO number one Yves Veyrier on Saturday on France inter.

Clashes in Lyon

In Lyon, where 3,000 people marched, according to the prefecture, a brief clash broke out at the start of the demonstration between a small group of “black blocks” and the police. Windows and advertising panels were damaged. The prefecture reported four arrests.

In Marseille, around 3,500 demonstrators, according to the prefecture, left the Old Port to shout their anger, especially at the reform of unemployment insurance, while in Rennes, they were 2,000, according to FO. In Nantes, the demonstration brought together 3,750 people according to the prefecture, which reported “some temporary clashes” linked to the presence of “a hundred people from the ultra left”.

More than a thousand people also marched in downtown Toulouse, with a large delegation of “yellow vests”, while they were between 1,600 (police) and 4,500 (unions) in downtown Bordeaux.

In Paris, the procession will leave at 2 p.m. from Place de la République in the direction of Place de la Nation, at the call of the four trade unions and youth movements Unef and UNL. The numbers one of the CGT and FO will scroll side by side. The Paris police headquarters indicated that it was planning an “adapted device” to counter the possible “presence of radical elements”, without specifying the number of agents deployed. “It will be a substantial device”, according to a police source. On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Paris Commune, the radical left will be part of it. “Yellow vests” have also planned to join the Place de la République.

Virtual CFDT

One year before the presidential election, some political leaders of the left have also announced their presence, like Jean-Luc Mélenchon (LFI) in Lille, Fabien Roussel (PCF) in Lille also then in Paris, or Olivier Faure (PS) and Julien Bayou (EELV) also in the capital. Some of them highlight the challenge to the unemployment insurance reform, which is due to come into force on July 1 and is unanimously denounced by the five major trade union centers. The cultural sector, which contests the reform, should swell the ranks from the Odéon theater at noon.

FO also intends to show that “if it is necessary to step up against a return of the pension file, we will go up”. The union launches the day in Paris with a tribute to the fighters of the Commune, in front of the wall of the Federates of Père-Lachaise.

Almost at the same time, the CFDT is organizing a virtual gathering with exchanges on Facebook with activists. “Considering the sanitary conditions, we made the choice to make it virtually again this year”, explained Laurent Berger on Saturday on France Info, saying to assume this choice and noting that on May 1 “it is not either the alpha and omega of union mobilization ”. “I believe that the health risk is still real, so we must be careful,” he added, while ensuring not to criticize “the choice of others”.

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