Over 400 French police injured as France May Day protests descend into chaos

French riot police were set alight by Molotov cocktails hurled by hooded vandals, while one protester had his hand blown off by a stun grenade

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Thomas Brooke
Riot police officers charge during a demonstration, Monday, May 1, 2023 in Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

More than 400 police officers were injured, and at least 540 arrests were made in France on Monday as nationwide May Day protests descended into chaos across the country.

The French interior ministry estimated the number of protesters who took to the streets at 782,000, while the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT) union claimed the figure was nearer 2.3 million. An estimated 550,000 people attended the mass protest in Paris alone.

Footage of the protests showed riot police being set alight with Molotov cocktails, while a 28-year-old protester in Nantes needed treatment after his hand was reportedly blown off by a stun grenade.

French authorities confirmed on Monday that 108 police officers had been injured in the violent demonstrations, as well as dozens of protesters; however, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin told BFMTV on Tuesday morning this figure was wildly inaccurate, confirming at least 406 officers had been injured, including 259 in Paris.

One police officer was hospitalized with significant burns to his face and body and is “still hospitalized but his life is not in danger,” Darmanin told the broadcaster.

“The vast majority of demonstrators were pacifists of course, but in Paris, Lyon, and Nantes in particular, the police faced extremely violent thugs who came with one objective: to kill cops and attack the property of others,” the French minister tweeted on Monday, using media appearances on Tuesday as an opportunity to call for tougher laws against violent protesters.

“We must have the strongest criminal sanctions against those who attack the police,” Darmanin said, calling for an “anti-thug law.”

“The scenes of violence on the sidelines of the processions are all the more unacceptable,” tweeted French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne on Monday, pledging her support for the country’s law enforcement.

“We are no longer facing violence, but facing assassination attempts against the police. As for the arsonists of residential buildings, they must be brought before the Court of Assizes,” added National Rally grandee Marine Le Pen.

Protesters burned multiple effigies of Emmanuel Macron as they continued to show their disapproval of the French president’s controversial pension reform, which ran roughshod over French democracy by bypassing a parliamentary vote.

In other footage circulating on social media, hooded vandals could be seen smashing shop windows and setting trash cans on fire, while French riot police could be seen running to escape mobs of hooded protesters launching projectiles.

French union leaders met in the aftermath of the chaos to discuss further plans to protest the pension reform, announcing another demonstration will take place on June 6.

“We call on our organizations to go meet MPs everywhere to call on them to vote on this bill. In this context, the inter-union calls for more initiatives, including a new day of joint action, strikes and demonstrations on June 6,” read a joint press release published on Tuesday.

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