President Macron had warned of an “extremely firm” response by the police in Paris to any attempt by Ultras of the newly re-named “Black Bloc” movement to turn the traditional May Day demonstrations by the French Left into an occasion for violence.
He wasn’t kidding. The “Black Bloc” that made a difference yesterday was less the anarchists, in their balaclavas and crash helmets, than the police, and CRS in full metal-jacket. They had been given strict orders to allow no repeat of the disorder that each weekend during the four preceding months had turned central Paris into a battleground, humiliating the President and presenting an image of France in a state of incipient revolution. And true to their tradition, they waded in without fear or favour.
Not that the Ultras went quietly. Fires were lit, windows smashed and cars burned. While the majority of demonstrators, made up of city-based trade unionists and largely rural Gilets-Jaunes, confined their part in the proceedings to raised fists and insults, the casseurs and fellow-travellers chose their moments, moving in to hurl rocks and attack any shops and vehicles unlucky enough to lie in their path.