Demands for 'anti-thug law' after Paris violence escalates with journalist hit by grenade

Emmanuel Macron’s government is looking to introduce an “anti-thug law” to punish protesters after violent clashes broke out with police officers on May Day. Across France, some 800,000 people took to the streets for Labour Day to mobilise against Macron’s recent move to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. During the violent clashes, Brut journalist Remy Buisine was hit in the feet by a grenade.

A Paris police officer was also seriously injured by a Molotov cocktail, among 108 officers injured around France.

Minister Gerald Darmanin denounced the riots and called for an “anti-thug law” to punish violent protesters.

He told BFMTV: “Violence is increasingly strong in a society that is radicalising.

“We must have the strongest criminal sanctions against those who attack the police.”

Speaking to Express.co.uk, Dr Helena Ivanov of the Henry Jackson Society, warned such a measure could backlash into more violent protests aimed at Macron.

She said: “May Day protests in France saw a substantial escalation, and if President Macron hoped that the protests would deescalate – those hopes have been shattered now. What his next steps will be is hard to predict – although he seems unwilling to back down on his pension reform despite the unpopularity of the policy.

“As for the state of emergency or banning protests – we can expect all of those to be extremely unpopular and they would potentially escalate things even further, so I suspect that Macron will try to avoid it and only sign it as a last resort.

“It is understandable that we are hearing calls for these laws – the French government is increasingly desperate to end these protests. However, calls for ‘anti thug laws’ as well as their actual implementation is likely to only further agitate the French people. So, in my opinion, such laws are very likely to backlash.”

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While marchers were largely peaceful, violence by radicals, an ever-present reality at French marches, marred the message, notably in Paris, Lyon and Nantes.

At least 108 police officers and gendarmes were injured in France on Monday, including “about twenty” in Paris, during the May Day protests.

While, 291 people were arrested in the country, including 90 in the capital.

Organisers see pension reform as a threat to hard-fought worker rights, while Macron argues it’s economically necessary as the population ages.

Tear gas hung over the end point of the Paris march, Place de la Nation, where a huge black cloud lofted high above the trees after radicals set two fuel cans afire outside a building renovation site.

French union members were joined by groups fighting for economic justice, or just expressing anger at what is seen as Macron’s out-of-touch, pro-business leadership.

Polls consistently show a majority of French people are opposed to the pension reform, which Macron says is needed to keep the retirement system afloat as the population ages.

Protesters who have been out in force in their millions since January are also angry at Macron himself and his presidency, which they see as threatening France’s worker protections and favouring big businesses.

Macron has argued that raising the retirement age is needed to keep the French pension system afloat amid an aging population. Unions and other opponents say wealthy taxpayers or companies should pitch in more instead, and see the reform as an erosion of France’s social safety net.

Last week he gave a speech on national TV to defend his widely unpopular plan.

The law is opposed by seven out of ten French people, according to the latest polls.

Additional reporting my Maria Ortega

source: express.co.uk