With one million people expected to hit the streets, France braces for 'historic' May Day rallies

Police officer stand during a demonstration in Lille, northern France.
Police officer stand during a demonstration in Lille, northern France. Copyright AP Photo/Michel Spingler
By Euronews with AFP
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More than one million people could take to the streets in France for 'historic' May Day demonstrations against the country's pension reforms.

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Thousands of people are demonstrating across France on Labour Day aiming to gather nearly 1.5 million people at rallies.

Unions have said it's an "historic" and "festive" May Day and intend to use Monday to show that they have not abandoned the fight against the French government's pension reform.

Demonstrators are calling the day "an opportunity" to remind people that their "rights can always be taken away" as they gather in major cities across the nation.

"It serves a purpose," explained Thierry Camusso, CGT Vitrolles union representative in Marseille. 

"We have to show our leaders that the revolt is not extinguished in the country, and we can say that May Day is symbolic for workers because today is Labour Day and that's why we're here. We are going to show Mr Macron that the country... we are not happy with his reform and it will not do," added Camusso.

Over at the start of the Paris May Day protest Sophie Binet, CGT union chief said that "The page will not be turned as long as there is no withdrawal of this pension reform," said Binet at the start of the Paris May Day protest, saying there is no "loss of steam" in the battle against President Macron's pension law.

On Sunday, ahead of the May Day rallies, the CFDT union head Laurent Berger said he was expecting a million or half a million demonstrators.

He added that there will be "300 rally points". 

Authorities have predicted that between 500,000 and 650,000 people could protest across the country, including 80,000 to 100,000 in Paris.

Air traffic is also expected to be disrupted, with 25- 33 per cent of flights cancelled in the country's largest airports, and disruptions could continue at Orly Airport until Tuesday.

"Everyone can go to demonstrate" on this holiday, Berger said. "I call on the maximum number of citizens ... to come tomorrow even if they are on vacation." 

This 1 May, which marks the 13th day of mobilisation against the contentious pension reform, comes after France's Constitutional Council approved the plan to raise the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64. President Emmanuel Macron’s unpopular plan was enacted into French law in April. 

Opinion polls have shown that his popularity has since plunged to its lowest level in four years. 

Protests are also expected in other European countries, such as Portugal, where its annual march is expected to be used to draw attention to other issues. Last month, tens of thousands of teachers took to the streets to demand higher pay, while others protested housing prices and the cost of living. 

In Greece, demonstrations over a train accident that killed 57 people at the end of February are expected to be back in full force. Protests blamed the government for the accident that mostly killed young students.

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