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01.05.2019 Europe

Paris police clash with rioters ahead of May Day march

REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
MAY 1, 2019 EUROPE

Clashes between police and rioters marred the start of May Day rallies in Paris on Wednesday. Officers used tear gas to try and disperse crowds reportedly infiltrated by so-called 'Black Bloc' activists.The May Day march comes in the wake of a months-long protest by the gilet jaunes movement.

At least 165 people had been arrested, and 9,016 subjected to "preventative" searches by 13H15 CET local time, according to the Paris police.

The clashes erupted as hundreds of so-called "Black Bloc" activists pushed to the front of the crowd gathered on Montparnasse Boulevard on the left bank of the river Seine, hurling bottles and other projectiles at police. One protester was reportedly injured in the head.

Riot police also used stingball grenades to disperse the crowd.

A controversial riot control device, the grenade is thrown at ground level, releasing scores of rubber pellets that cause an intense stinging to the legs within a 15-metre (50-foot) range.

French authorities have announced tight security to ward off the risk of vandalism by 'Black Bloc' activists who tag along just to wreak havoc.

More than 7,400 police have been deployed in Paris, where the main union protest will march from the Montparnasse train station to the Place d'Italie, in the south of the city.

Six armoured vehicles and six water cannons are also on standby to be brought in if needed, a police source told AFP.

Authorities have ordered at least 580 shops and restaurants along the protest route to close as a precaution, after businesses were destroyed during recent Yellow Vest protests.

Demonstrations have been banned at a number of locations in the French capital, including: the Champs-Elysées Avenue, the nearby Elysée presidential palace and the area around the Notre-Dame Cathedral.

A controversial law came into effect in April that grants French police the power to carry out searches of demonstrators' personal belongings and/or vehicles. It also made it a criminal offence to cover your face, punishable by up to one year in jail or a €15,000 fine.