Europeans Mark International Workers’ Day with Protests, Grim Mood

Europeans marked International Workers’ Day, May 1, with traditional lily of the valley flowers and street protests. But this year’s mood was grim, with many countries feeling the health and economic backlash of COVID-19, including a double-dip recession in the 19-member euro currency zone.The weather was cold and damp in Paris as thousands of protesters marched down Boulevard Voltaire to Place de la Nation — or Nation’s Square — a favorite guillotine spot during the French Revolution.A protester holds a sign denouncing profiteers who have enriched themselves from the COVID crisis, in Paris, May 1, 2021. (Lisa Bryant/VOA)There was no such bloodshed during Saturday afternoon’s march, but there was a similar spirit of revolt. “We’re here, we’re here … even if Macron doesn’t like it, we’re still here,” protesters chanted, referring to President Emmanuel Macron. They brandished signs that said “The Profiteers Must Pay for the Covid Crisis” and “Slavery by Banks.”Jean-Pierre, a member of the Lutte Ouvriere workers union, said it was important to fight, especially against capitalists using the pandemic to enrich themselves.Graffiti in Paris says, “University students, left to their own devices.” Conditions around COVID-19 have hit many young people hard, with reports of some going hungry. (Lisa Bryant/VOA)“We’re manifesting against the change of tariffs for university, for foreign students,” he said. “A lot of things pertaining to the university and how the public system is being neglected. They’re wanting more money to create equality for all the students in France.”A year before presidential elections, Saturday’s protests had particularly sharp political overtones. Far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who placed her party’s annual wreath at the Joan of Arc statue in Paris, warned that another term for Macron would be a disaster for France. A number of prominent leftist leaders joined the Paris march.

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