World Photos·Photos

May Day protesters march for better job protections amid pandemic

Workers and union leaders dusted off bullhorns and flags that had stayed furled during coronavirus lockdowns for slimmed down but still boisterous — and at times violent — May Day marches on Saturday, demanding more labour protections amid a pandemic that has turned economies and workplaces upside down.

In some countries, police enforced virus lockdowns and made hundreds of arrests

Workers demonstrate with placards reading 'Peril' on May Day in Marseille, southern France, on Saturday. People around the world vented their concerns over jobs and protections during the annual celebration of workers' rights. (Daniel Cole/The Associated Press)

Workers and union leaders dusted off bullhorns and flags that had stayed furled during coronavirus lockdowns for slimmed down but still boisterous — and at times violent — May Day marches on Saturday.

Demonstrators demanded more labour protections amid a pandemic that has turned economies and workplaces upside down.

In countries that mark May 1 as International Labour Day, the annual celebration of workers' rights produced a rare sight during the pandemic: large and closely packed crowds, with marchers striding shoulder-to-shoulder with clenched fists behind banners.

In Turkey and the Philippines, police prevented the May Day protests, enforcing virus lockdowns and making hundreds of arrests. In France, some marchers battled with riot police. For labour leaders, the day was a test of their ability to mobilize workers in the face of the profound economic disruptions.

Here's a look at some protests around the world.


While most of the dozens of marches across France passed off without incident, riot police clashed with some demonstrators in Paris as burning roadblocks threw clouds of smoke into the air.

(Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters)

Police charged crowds to catch suspected troublemakers and fired small amounts of tear gas. Police in Paris said they made 34 arrests.

(Manuel Ausloos/Reuters)

Riot police and demonstrators also clashed in the southern city of Lyon, where authorities reported five arrests and 27 police officers injured.


Russia saw just a fraction of its usual May Day activities amid a ban on gatherings due to COVID-19. The Russian Communist Party drew only a few hundred people to lay wreaths in Moscow. Party members and supporters held flags near Red Square.

(Tatyana Makeyeva/Reuters)


In Southeast Asia's largest economy, thousands voiced anger at a new jobs law that critics fear will reduce severance pay, lessen restrictions for foreign workers and increase outsourcing as the nation seeks to attract more investment.

Workers in the capital Jakarta stood spaced apart as a precaution against COVID-19 while holding mock sword and scales to symbolize justice during a rally.

(Dita Alangkara/The Associated Press)

Protesters also laid mock graves on the street to symbolize hopelessness. Marches were being held in some 200 cities across the country.


In Manila, where a month-long coronavirus lockdown has been extended by two weeks amid a surge in infections, police prevented hundreds of workers from demonstrating at a public plaza, protest leader Renato Reyes said.

But protesters did gather briefly at a busy boulevard in the capital, demanding pandemic cash aid, wage subsidies and COVID-19 vaccines amid rising unemployment and hunger.

(Jes Aznar/Getty Images)

"Workers were largely left to fend for themselves while being locked down," labour leader Josua Mata said.


A few labour leaders were allowed to lay wreaths in Istanbul's Taksim Square, but riot police stopped many others from reaching the plaza. People in Turkey are barred from leaving home, except to collect essential food and medicine, under a lockdown until May 17 that aims to halt a surge in infections.

Mounted police officers were seen securing Taksim Square.

(Umit Bektas/Reuters)

Police used pepper spray against demonstrators who attempted to defy the ban and march on the square.

(Umit Bektas/Reuters)

The Istanbul governor's office said 212 people were taken into custody for breaching coronavirus restrictions.


In Germany, where previous May Day demonstrations have often turned violent, police deployed thousands of officers and warned that rallies would be halted if marchers failed to follow coronavirus restrictions. 

Thousands of protestors attended a May Day rally at the Hermannplatz square in Berlin.

(Markus Schreiber/The Associated Press)

Protests in Berlin called for lower rents, higher wages and voiced other concerns. Also marching were far-right coronavirus deniers and opponents of anti-virus measures.

Later Saturday, one of the bigger leftist rallies in Berlin turned violent with protesters throwing bottles and rocks at police and burning garbage containers and wooden pallets on the streets, news agency dpa reported. An unknown number of officers and protesters were injured and several demonstrators were detained.


Workers gathered in downtown Naples to demonstrate despite Italy's pandemic restrictions against large gatherings that brought a second straight May Day without traditional marches led by labour confederations or marathon rock concerts.

(Karl Ritter/The Associated Press)

In the northern city of Turin, police faced off against a few hundred demonstrators. In Rome, Italy's head of state paid tribute to workers and health-care workers.

"Particularly heavy has been the impact from the crisis on female labour and on the access of young people to jobs," Italian President Sergio Mattarella said.


Thousands of demonstrators backing President Jair Bolsonaro's anti-lockdown stance rallied at Rio de Janeiro's iconic Copacabana beach — one of several such gatherings across the country.

Bolsonaro's office said he flew in a helicopter over a similar rally in the capital, Brasilia, where some demonstrators carried banners urging him to call in the military.

(Eraldo Peres/The Associated Press)

There were also protests in Brasilia and other cities against Bolsonaro's handling of the pandemic. Demonstrators surrounded a banner outside the Cathedral in Sao Paulo with a message that read "Get out Bolsonaro," in Portuguese.

(Andre Penner/The Associated Press)