At least four police officers were hurt in clashes in Paris between masked youths throwing molotov cocktails and riot police who responded with teargas just six days before a crunch presidential election.
The traditional May Day marches staged by France’s powerful labor unions provided a useful gauge of the country’s mood as it prepares to choose between presidential far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and centrist frontrunner Emmanuel Macron.
One officer was engulfed in flames, an AFP photographer saw, and unconfirmed reports said he had suffered serious burns.
On this day 15 years ago, some 1.3 million people, including 400,000 in Paris, took to the streets of France in union-led demonstrations to protest against the founder of the National Front (FN).
Some militants have formed a movement they have called “Social Front” to block both candidates and marched under a banner saying: “Rock and a hard place: Social Front, it will be won in the streets.”
CGT leader Philippe Martinez said he “deeply disagreed” with that approach, arguing that Le Pen and Macron “are not the same thing”.
“The National Front is a racist, xenophobic party that is anti-women and anti-workers because it is also an economically liberal party,” he said.
Le Pen hit back that the unions “are not defending workers’ interests, they are looking after their own interests”.
Macron is currently favorite to become France’s youngest ever president, leading Le Pen by 19 points in the polls, but she has shown she is a cunning campaigner.
Macron spoke later Monday at a convention center near the La Villette science park in northeastern Paris as he seeks to highlight his appeal as a future-oriented innovator.
He said only his En Marche movement could “remake” French politics.
She took her campaign Monday to the working-class Paris suburb of Villepinte where the first key speaker was Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, a Eurosceptic from outside the FN who Le Pen has said will be her prime minister if wins on Sunday.
She is hoping to capture some of the 1.7 million votes he won in the first round, although his support for Le Pen has divided his own party.
In Paris, Le Pen’s 88-year-old father — whom she kicked out of the FN in 2015 — paid tribute at a gilded statue of Joan of Arc, whom the party has adopted as a nationalist icon.
His presence in the campaign is an irritation for his daughter, after he repeatedly called the Nazi gas chambers a “detail” of history.
Marine Le Pen, who has worked to rebrand the FN to shed its associations with her anti-Semitic father, on Sunday laid a wreath at a World War II monument in the port of Marseille as France marked a day of remembrance for the victims of the mass deportation of Jews to Nazi Germany during World War II.
Macron paid his respects at Paris’s Holocaust memorial.