Tens of thousands of protesters in Paris danced, picnicked and railed against President Emmanuel Macron at a “party” marking his first year in office.
Police fired tear gas on troublemakers on the margins of the largely festive protest Saturday, and eight people were arrested. Authorities deployed 2,000 police to the event after violence and ransacking scarred a May Day protest in the French capital earlier this week, shocking many.
“Stop Macron!” read placards at Saturday’s rally in front of Paris’ famed Opera Garnier. Demonstrators then marched through tourist-filled neighborhoods toward the Bastille plaza in eastern Paris.
Organizers of Saturday’s march, the far-left party Defiant France, planned the event around the one-year anniversary of Macron’s May 7, 2017 election. He was inaugurated a week later, and quickly launched broad changes to France’s labor rules to increase the nation’s global competitiveness.
Protesters are angry at reforms led by Macron, a centrist former investment banker, such as cutting some worker protections and increasing police powers.
“This regime is a regime that’s an authoritarian regime. We are in a soft dictatorship and we have concerns about guarantees of individual freedoms and the guarantee of fundamental rights,” said protester Roselyne Gonle-Luillier, a judge.
Macron won the presidency on a wave of disillusionment at France’s traditional parties, beating far-right Marine Le Pen in a runoff. He has raised France’s international profile — but at home many voters are disgruntled and fear that he his dismantling the French way of life.
“What we want specifically is to resist, show him (Macron) our anger, show him that there are some French people who did not vote for him, do not agree with what he is trying to do,” said Sylvie Brissonneau, who will soon retire. One of Macron’s reforms is raising taxes for retirees.
The party atmosphere Saturday was a relief after the May Day violence, which saw protesters torch cars and vandalize a McDonald’s restaurant and other stores. A judicial official said Saturday that seven people have been charged in the May Day unrest. Authorities blamed more than 1,000 masked attackers from an anarchist group called the Black Blocs who disrupted a peaceful workers march.
At Saturday’s march, organizers said they were in regular contact with the police to avoid serious damage.