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international

Scholz faces protests during his speech at May Day rally


German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke at a May Day rally of unions in Duesseldorf on Sunday (May 1), facing protesters holding signs reading ' Olaf Scholz, not my chancellor' and calling him 'warmonger' as he defended German arms deliveries to Ukraine.

"I respect any pacifism, I respect any attitude. But it must seem cynical to a citizen of Ukraine to be told to fight back against Putin's aggression without weapons," Scholz said, addressing those who say delivering heavy weapons to Ukraine risks provoking a Russian military response in a third country and sparking a broader conflict.

Scholz is under pressure at home and abroad to supply Ukraine with heavy arms such as tanks and howitzers and support an immediate EU embargo on Russian energy imports to strip President Vladimir Putin of hard currency that helps him finance the war.

In a U-turn, Germany approved on April 26 the delivery of "Gepard" anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine, a step backed by 55% of Germans who in an opinion poll said Europe's biggest economy should supply Ukraine with such arms.

The decision did not help reverse the public perception of Scholz as being indecisive and lacking leadership. An opinion poll published in Bild am Sonntag showed that 54% were unsatisfied with Scholz's handling of the crisis. His approval rating fell to 32%, the poll showed.

Fearing Russia could broaden the war to countries other than Ukraine, some of Germany's partners in the NATO military alliance had expressed discontent with Scholz's initial hesitancy on arming Ukraine.

Others like Poland are unhappy with Germany's opposition to an EU embargo on Russian gas imports.

The Greens and Free Democrats, junior coalition partners to Scholz's Social Democrats, are keener on providing more military assistance to Ukraine.

Scholz has had to balance their demands with those of left-leaning members of his party who are against delivering heavy weapons to Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Berlin police detained eleven people during a “revolutionary May Day rally” on Sunday and said the German capital had seen “one of the most peaceful May Day demonstrations in recent years.”

Late-night scuffles broke out after the mostly peaceful march through the Neukoelln and Kreuzberg districts ended in Oranienplatz square where several people were seen being detained by officers as the sound of breaking glass and fireworks going off nearby was heard.

According to police, the eleven detentions were made during the day and late evening.

Earlier in the day, police put the number of participants in the march at 10,000 and said they had deployed 5,900 officers from across Germany.

In the past, left-wing militants pelted riot police with stones, bottles and firecrackers and Berlin regularly saw street battles evolve as night fell and the protesters’ alcohol consumption rose.

In the French capital Paris, Police fired tear gas to push back black-clad anarchists who ransacked business premises during May Day protests against the policies of newly re-elected President Emmanuel Macron.

Protesters hurled objects and threw tear gas at riot police, as shop windows were broken and walls vandalised. Thick plumes of smoke rose from the streets as tear gas canisters exploded.

Clashes with police broke out at the start of the march near La Republique Square and when it reached La Nation Square in eastern Paris.

About 250 rallies were organised in Paris and other cities including Lille, Nantes, Toulouse and Marseille. In the capital, trade unionists were joined by political figures - mostly from the left - and climate activists.

Published : May 02, 2022

By : Reuters