PARIS — Traditional May 1 union marches turned violent in France on Monday and presidential election frontrunner Emmanuel Macron attacked far-right rival Marine Le Pen, highlighting the divisions six days before the run-off.
Six police officers were hurt in clashes in Paris between masked youths throwing molotov cocktails and riot police who responded with tear gas, as tens of thousands of union activists took to the streets for May Day demonstrations.
One riot police officer was engulfed in flames, an AFP photographer saw.
Interior Minister Matthias Fekl condemned the violence and said one officer was seriously burned on the hand while another had serious burns to the face, without saying which the officer was in the photograph.
Reacting to the scenes, far-right presidential candidate Le Pen tweeted: “This is the sort of mess… that I no longer want to see on our streets.”
In a feisty speech, Macron told thousands of his supporters he would defend “free democracy” if voters choose him on Sunday after Le Pen had urged voters to reject “the world of finance, of arrogance, of money as king” she said her opponent embodied.
The traditional union-led marches underlined the conspicuous absence of the united front shown in 2002 when Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie shocked the country by reaching the run-off.
On this day 15 years ago, some 1.3 million people, including 400,000 in Paris, took to the streets of France in union-led demonstrations to protest against the founder of the National Front (FN).
That show of force, coupled with a political closing of ranks, helped the centre-right’s Jacques Chirac inflict a crushing defeat on Le Pen senior./AFP