Yesterday (Monday) the traditional May 1st Labour Day celebrations were marred by acts of violence in Paris, Berlin and Liège. Six French policemen and six German policemen were injured. In Belgium, the spokesman for the Workers’ Party (PTB), Raoul Hedebouw, was attacked with a knife before making a speech in Liège.
In France, the Interior Minister mentioned that 142,000 people were gathering across the country, as part of the run-off campaign for the tense presidential election race. In Paris, four trade unions called for “opposition” to the Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.
These trade unions did so without inviting protesters to vote for her rival Emmanuel Macron (from En marche !). The clashes took place in the afternoon, and were attributed to the autonomous activists known as “Black Bloc”.
The local préfecture de police (police headquarters) stated that projectiles and Molotov cocktails were thrown at police officers. One police officer suffered serious facial burns. The crowd was dispersed by the use of tear gas. The French media are saying that five people were arrested for questioning and two placed in custody.
Similar scenes were witnessed in Germany. There was particularly marked violence towards the police in the city of Halle, where five people were injured.
The city is located 170 kilometres from the German capital. Police officers intervened between Far-right protesters and those protesting against them.
In Stuttgart, a policeman was also injured in further Far-right protests.
In Berlin, 8,000 radical left-wing protesters also gathered. Several protesters attacked the police using their own placards. Security forces surrounding the protest resorted to tear gas to restore order. Around forty people were arrested for questioning.
At the same time, 10,000 people gathered for a pacifist festival organised not far from the march.
In contrast in Hamburg, protests took place without any problems. The various trade unions attracted some 8,000 people and a pacifist march involving 2,500 Far-left supporters also occurred.
In Belgium, a man stabbed the national spokesman of the Workers’ Party (PTB), Raoul Hedebouw, injuring him in the arm. The latter was attacked whilst he was getting ready to go on the stage.
However, Hedebouw managed to give his May 1st speech before going to hospital.
An arrest warrant for assault and battery of a deputy, and carrying a weapon on a public thoroughfare without reasonable cause, was issued in respect of the assailant (aged 62).
The Liberal Prime Minister, Charles Michel, condemned the attack and wished Mr Hedebouw a speedy recovery.