Workers and union leaders dusted megaphones and flags that remained rolled up during coronavirus lockdowns for lightened but still noisy May 1 marches, demanding more labor protection amid a shocking pandemic economies and workplaces.
In countries that mark May 1 as International Labor Day, the annual celebration of workers’ rights produced a rare spectacle during the pandemic: large and tight crowds, with protesters marching side by side, fists clenched behind banners.
But in Turkey and the Philippines, police blocked May Day protests, imposing virus locks.
In Istanbul, a few union leaders were allowed to lay wreaths in Taksim Square, but riot police prevented many more from reaching the square. The Progressive Lawyers Association said more than 200 people were arrested.
Hooded and black-clad protesters clashed with police in Paris as thousands joined in traditional May Day protests across France to demand social and economic justice and voice their opposition to government plans to change unemployment benefits.
Police made 34 arrests in the capital, where garbage cans were set on fire and the windows of a bank branch were smashed, temporarily delaying the march.
Around 300 rallies were organized in cities like Lyon, Nantes, Lille and Toulouse.
For union leaders, this day was a test of their ability to mobilize workers in the face of deep economic disruption.
The face masks worn by many were a reminder of how much life has changed since the last traditional celebrations of May 1 in 2019, before the coronavirus epidemic destroyed lives and livelihoods and eroded civil liberties, including often understood the right to protest.
Some marches, restricted by coronavirus restrictions, have been less crowded than what was traditional before the pandemic. But they still served as outlets for workers’ concerns about jobs and protections.