Peace and protests: May Day marches around the globe voice worker concerns

World Today

Activists clash with riot police during the traditional May Day rally in the center of Paris, France, Tuesday, May 1, 2018. Each year, people around the world take to the streets to mark International Workers’ Day, or May Day. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Tuesday was International Workers Day – known more simply around the world as May Day. And, on the first day of May, workers came out in protest in cities across the globe.

Some demonstrations were peaceful – some turned quite violent.

CGTN’s Roee Ruttenberg reports.

French officials condemned May Day vandals who went wild Tuesday on the streets on Paris. Mayor Anne Hidalgo blamed the violence on “hundreds of masked individuals.” Police eventually used tear gas to break-up the crowds, estimated around 20,000 people, marching in support of workers’ rights. Many of them said they opposed plans by French President Emmanuel Macron to end some protections for workers.

Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front, gathered with other far-right party bosses from Europe in the South of France. She laid a wreath at a statute of French icon Joan of Arc.

Most in the group were staunchly anti-immigration. They tried to make a big showing ahead of next year’s European Parliament elections.

“Very clearly today, across Europe there’s a powerful upswing of a revolt against the policies implemented by the European Union, economic policies, migration policies. This prison-like Europe, this Europe of conflicts that’s only working with blackmail and threats,” Le Pen said.

In Chile, protestors blocked several main avenues in the capital of Santiago. They started fires and threw rocks before police used tear gas and water cannons to clear the streets. The marches were organized by two of the country’s largest unions, who are opposed to the center-right government of Sebastian Pinera.

In Moscow, 100,000 people took to the streets for the traditional May Day parade which started in Red Square. Few of them were criticizing the government there. But, a smaller rally in St. Petersburg drew protesters angry over the Kremlin’s ban of a popular messaging app.

In Manila, 5,000 people rallied by the presidential palace. They burned an effigy of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. They said he’s failed to fulfill a major campaign promise to crack down on unprotected short-term employment.

“Until now, he has been beating around the bush and fooling us workers. We can no longer tolerate this. Enough with promises that get broken,” Filipino United Labour Union Secretary-General Julian Peralta said.

In Turkey, government-sanctioned rallies were led by major trade unions. But, in Istanbul, about two dozen people were arrested trying to make their way to Taksim Square. Authorities closed the area to May Day protests, citing security concerns. Taksim Square is where 41 years ago, 34 people were killed during a May Day event when shots were fired into the crowd. To this day, the square holds symbolic value for the country’s labor movement.

In Spain, there were marches in 70 different cities. The largest was in the capital, Madrid, with chants of “time to win.” Protestors called for gender equality, higher salaries, and pensions. They said now that the country’s economy is back on track, worker-friendly changes should be implemented.

Tuesday’s May Day protests really spanned the globe. Hong Kong, India. Even here in the U.S., there were demonstrations from New York to Florida and California. Most were unabashedly critical of President Donald Trump. Their message: Vote him and his policies out.