Rioting broke out in Paris today as thousands gathered for May Day protests dubbed ‘Armageddon’ by extremist demonstrators.
Thugs from the so-called Black Bloc anti-capitalist movement were involved in running battles with police soon after 1pm.
By 2pm, there had been 165 arrests in Paris, most for public order offences related to the rioting.
Weapons were also confiscated as the police used tear gas, rubber bullets and baton charges to try and restore order.
A man, his face covered in blood and heavily bandaged, is assisted as he walks away during a May Day demonstration in the French capital Paris today
People hold blue, white and red smoke bombs as they demonstrate to mark May Day or Labour Day on May 1, 2019 in Toulouse, southwestern France
A police officer assists an injured man as demonstrators march though Paris during the annual May Day protests on May 1 in Paris
A protester throws back a tear gas canister, during clashes with riot police officers, prior to the start of May Day demonstrations, in Paris on May 1, 2019
The windscreen of a vehicle was broken by a rock thrown by protesters, prior to the start of May Day demonstrations, in Paris on May 1, 2019
French Gendarmes stand guard as street medics intervene (right), prior to the start of May Day demonstrations in Paris on May 1
A protester in a wheelchair, wearing a yellow vest (gilet jaune) faces anti-riot police forces in the Montparnasse district of Paris, ahead of the start of the annual May Day (Labour Day) workers’ demonstration
The worst early violence was outside La Rotonde, President Emmanuel Macron‘s favourite restaurant in Montparnasse.
‘Black Bloc agitators were throwing stones and other missiles at us, and we had to charge,’ said a CRS riot control officer at the scene.
‘Tear gas has also been deployed to bring order to the situation. The situation is very tense.’
Huge parts of Paris were in lockdown as an unprecedented 7400 police officers were drafted on to the streets.
The massive security presence was announced by Interior Minister Christophe Castaner who said: ‘There’s no question of dramatising anything, it is a question of being prepared.’
May Day is a Bank Holiday and a traditional time for Left-Wing workers to rise up against the ruling elite.
In France, there have been around 5000 police, gendarmes and soldiers deployed for recent Yellow Vest demonstrations that have descended into anarchy.
Today a further 2400 were deemed necessary as the Vests were joined by trade unionists, climate change protestors and Black Bloc who had posted messages on social media pleding an ‘Armageddon’ that would turn Paris into the ‘Riot Capital of Europe’.
Mr Castanar said the extra officers were needed because ‘1000 to 2000 extremists’ were expected to join in the trouble.
These would be added to around 25,000 Yellow Vests in Paris alone, and some 100,000 more in other parts of France, said Mr Castaner.
A police officer points a 40-millimetre rubber defensive bullet launcher LBD, as he stands guard with gendarmes and riot police officers, prior to the start of May Day demonstrations, in Paris on May 1
Many ‘radical activists’ more are expected to come from neighbouring countries including Britain, Germany and Italy to join in the mayhem.
There are fears that they will target public monuments, banks and high-end shops, while also threatening the kind of fires that have become common at protests.
This has led to the Champs Elysee – the most famous avenue in France – being closed, along with Paris’s governmental and diplomatic districts.
The Ile de la Cite – the island where Notre Dame Cathedral is situated was also in lockdown following the blaze that almost destroyed it last month.
Armoured cars and water cannons were also being deployed next to historic buildings such as the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomhe.
The Vests – who are named after their high visibility motoring jackets – started as an online group calling for an end to high fuel prices last November.
They have been demonstrating in major cities such as Paris every Saturday since, and are now calling for President Emmanuel Macron to resign.
He went on television last week to outline a package of economic reforms worth around £4.5billion, but it has failed to pacify his critics.
As Mr Macron prepares for European Parliament elections this month, he wants to show he is capable of maintaining law and order in his own country.
May Day demonstrations were also expected today in major cities such as Bordeaux, Marseille and Toulouse.