May Day protesters from the far right,
far left and all shades in between took to streets around the
world on Wednesday, some brimming with nationalist fervor,
others calling for peace, jobs and a better environment.
Chanting "France for the French," at least 10,000
supporters of far-right presidential contender Jean-Marie Le
Pen marched in Paris as a wave of opponents demonstrated
against him across the country ahead of Sunday's runoff
election against President Jacques Chirac.
Marchers young and old carried signs saying "Le Pen for
President" and "Proud to be French" and waved French flags
under the watchful eye of ranks of police ahead of a massive
anti-Le Pen demonstration due later in the day.
Indonesian policemen disperse labor activist during international May Day in Indonesia's second biggest city of Surabaya on May 1, 2002. Thousands of Indonesian labors throughout the nation staged protests to mark May Day. The workers demanded better conditions and welfare for workers. REUTERS/Str
In Germany, one woman was fighting for her life after
violence marking May Day erupted in two leftist districts of
Berlin. It began when a group of around 500 anarchists lit a
large fire on a main street and then pelted the fire brigade
with bottles and stones.
Police used water cannon against the demonstrators and
hundreds of riot police moved in. Dozens of people suffered
facial cuts from hurled bottles after what was planned as a
peaceful anti-Nazi demonstration.
Scores of cyclists converged on the U.S. embassy in London,
blocking traffic at the start of anti-pollution and
anti-capitalism protests which drew thousands of demonstrators
to the British capital.
Amid fears a hard core of activists were bent on violence,
up to 6,000 police flooded the city and businesses boarded up
Almost every country in the world marks May day in one way
or another, and the date is officially recognized by the United
Nations as International Labour Day.
In other world capitals, trade unionists marched in more
traditional May Day parades, calling for better workers' rights
and an end to violence in the Middle East.
"Long live international solidarity to Palestine," read a
red banner in Syndagma Square in central Athens, where
thousands of demonstrators had gathered.
In Australia, where trade unions still have much influence
on government, police arrested dozens of people after scuffles
broke out at a picket to protest against the country's
Although thousands of people also staged peaceful labor
demonstrations, union officials expressed concern their cause
was being hijacked by fringe groups.
"It's the traditional day of international solidarity for
working people. The methods used to promote these other causes
are a concern for us...detract from May Day," said John
Robertson, secretary of the New South Wales Labor Council.
In warm Italian sunshine some 18,000 people gathered in
front of the basilica of St. Peter's in the Vatican to listen
to Pope John Paul deliver his May Day audience.
"Today is Labour Day... through work, man becomes more
human. But for hard work to allow man to become more human it
must always exist within a social framework," he said.
In Moscow, pro-Kremlin parties and trade unions stole the
show from the communists by staging an estimated 140,000-strong
rally on the Red Square -- something the country has not seen
since the Soviet days.
President Vladimir Putin welcomed the demonstrators. In a
message that was read out to the well-organized flower-waving
crowd, he hailed the action by the unions and the Kremlin's key
ally United Russia bloc as helping build a better future.
The communists held a rally nearby to demand an immediate
Communist authorities in China, which once derided private
enterprise as evil capitalism, showed just how much things had
changed by canonizing entrepreneurs as "model workers,"
awarding special medals to successful businessmen.
Malaysian authorities arrested 17 people in the capital,
Kuala Lumpur, after labor activists marched through the city
center with banners calling for better rights for plantation
"May Day is an act of solidarity, recognized even by the
state," organizers said. "The police action mocks fundamental
rights of workers to assemble peacefully."
Elsewhere, hundreds of prostitutes took to the streets of
Calcutta in India to press for rights and recognition.
Copyright © 2002 Reuters Limited