Thousands mark May Day in France, Spain and Germany

a group of people riding on the back of smoke: Some protesters in Paris smashed bank branch windows and set fire to dustbins © Bertrand GUAY Some protesters in Paris smashed bank branch windows and set fire to dustbins

Thousands rallied on Saturday across France and Spain to hold May Day rallies in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic as police scuffled with protesters in Paris and fired tear gas. 

A police source told AFP that far-left "black bloc" protesters had repeatedly tried to block the trade union-led march in the French capital, with 34 people detained. 

Some protesters smashed the windows of bank branches, set fire to dustbins and threw projectiles at police, who responded with volleys of tear gas and stingball grenades. 

Some 5,000 police were deployed in Paris, a police source said.

The CGT union said nearly 300 May day protests were planned around the country. It later claimed a total national turnout of 170,000, with 25,000 rallying in the French capital.

a group of people on a motorcycle: The government said 17,000 people attended the Paris rallies © Alain JOCARD The government said 17,000 people attended the Paris rallies

The French interior ministry put the national figure at 106,000 and the Paris turnout at 17,000.

The crowds held placards with different demands, ranging from the end of the nighttime curfew in place as part of coronavirus restrictions, to a halt to unemployment reforms due to come into force in July.

"We have many reasons to come and rally -- the health and social situations and the general impoverishment of society," said Ivan Gineste, 50, who works in a high school in the southeastern city of Lyon.

Members of the yellow vest anti-elite movement, which rocked Emmanuel Macron's presidency two years ago before largely fizzling out, could also be spotted at protests up and down the country. 

"There are so many motivations for a revolt that are building up -- the management of Covid, the so-called reforms that are going to take away people's ability to live, job-seekers who are going to lose their benefits," said a pensioner who gave her name as Patricia. 

a group of people walking in front of Plaza de Cibeles: The Spanish marchers wore masks and observed social distancing © OSCAR DEL POZO The Spanish marchers wore masks and observed social distancing

"We absolutely need to express ourselves," the 66-year-old said. 

- Masks and social distancing -

Thousands also rallied in more than 70 cities across Spain in the first Labour Day demonstrations since the pandemic began. 

Wearing masks and observing social distancing, demonstrators marched through the streets waving banners although in many places, numbers were capped to ensure anti-Covid measures were respected. 

a group of people holding a sign: A protester holds a sign reading "A mute country does not change" © OSCAR DEL POZO A protester holds a sign reading "A mute country does not change"

The main demonstration in Madrid, which was limited to 1,000 people, began at midday under the slogan "Now it's time to deliver" with the participants marching from the town hall to the city's Puerta del Sol square.  

a group of people standing in front of a building: Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Berlin © Raphaelle LOGEROT Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Berlin

Seven government ministers attended the march, including Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz as well as representatives of the three left-wing parties running in Tuesday's regional election in Madrid. 

Thousands mark May Day in France, Spain and Germany