Violence erupted in the streets of Paris on Sunday evening during May Day protests against the re-election of President Emmanuel Macron.
housands took to the streets for the marches across France to object against some of Mr Macron’s policies, such as raising the retirement age to 65 from 62, and also to call for higher wages.
A majority of the marches were peaceful, but violence broke out in the capital as police fired tear gas and clashed with black-clad anarchists.
Officers arrested 54 people, including a woman who attacked a fireman trying to put out a blaze, interior minister Gerald Darmanin said on Twitter. He added that eight police were injured.
The violence first broke out at the start of the march near Place de la République and when it reached Place de la Nation in eastern Paris.
“Black Bloc” anarchists attacked a McDonald’s on the Place Leon Blum and damaged several estate agencies, breaking their windows and setting bins on fire. Police responded by firing tear gas.
About 250 rallies were organised in Paris and other cities including Lille, Nantes, Toulouse and Marseille. Overall 116,500 people demonstrated across the country, including 24,000 in the capital.
The cost of living was the main theme in the presidential election campaign and looks set to be equally prominent ahead of June legislative elections that Mr Macron’s party and its allies must win if he is to be able to implement his pro-business policies.
“It is important to show Macron and the whole political world that we are prepared to defend our social rights,” Joshua Antunes, a 19-year-old student said. He also accused the president of “inactivity” on environment issues.
Marchers carried banners reading “Retirement Before Arthritis”, “Retirement at 60, Freeze Prices” and “Macron, Get Out”.
“The government has got to deal with the purchasing power problem by raising wages,” Philippe Martinez, the head of the CGT union, told Reuters before the rallies.
Mr Macron won a new five-year presidential term after beating far-right challenger Marine Le Pen in last Sunday‘s runoff vote. Jean-Luc Melenchon, who came third in the first round of the presidential vote, attended the Paris march.
Mr Melenchon, who is politically to the left of Mr Macron, wants to rally a progressive union, including the Greens, to dominate parliament and force Mr Macron into an awkward “cohabitation”.
“We will not make a single concession on pensions,” Mr Melenchon said before the march started. He said he still hoped an agreement to build a new union of the left could be reached by Sunday evening.
Additional reporting by Reuters