Riot police, masked protesters clash at Paris May Day rally

A protester wears a yellow vest on which is written 'yellow red or green vest we all love our blue planet', during an anti-government demonstration called by the 'Yellow Vests'

A protester wears a yellow vest on which is written 'yellow red or green vest we all love our blue planet', during an anti-government demonstration called by the 'Yellow Vests'

Traditionally a union-led day of action in the country, this year's event saw both the yellow vest movement and so-called "black blocks" of dark-clad and masked protesters.

A private company hired by a group of French news outlets, Occurrence, counted 40,000 protesters in Paris, while the CGT union said there were 80,000 participants.

Last year, officials were caught off guard by some 1,200 troublemakers who ran amok in Paris, vandalizing businesses and clashing with police.

Paris deployed more than 7,400 officers throughout the city.

Riot police repeatedly used tear gas and sting grenades to try to control the crowd gathering near Paris' Montparnasse train station for the main protest.

The yellow vest protests, named after motorists' high-visibility jackets, began in November over fuel tax increases but have evolved into a sometimes violent revolt against politicians and a government seen as out of touch.

Almost 200 motorcycle units were deployed across the French capital to respond quickly to flare-ups of violence, and drones used to track protesters' movements.

Almost 200 motorcycle units have been deployed across the capital to respond quickly to flare-ups of violence, and drones are being used to track protesters' movements.

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The Paris police department denied excessive violence.

Paris police said one police officer was taken to a hospital with a head injury.

By midday, police said 88 people had been detained for questioning.

Tens of thousands of labor union and "yellow vest" protesters were on the streets across France, days after Macron outlined a response to months of street protests including tax cuts worth around 5 billion euros ($NZ8.5 billion). "That's the number of protesters that will be more efficient".

Following a particularly violent demo in March, the government adopted a "zero-tolerance" approach, passing an "anti-rioter" bill which included making it a criminal offense to wear a mask at a protest.

Philippe Martinez, general-secretary of the CGT, accused security forces of initiating violence toward member protesters, Radio France Internationale reported.

May Day occurred amid weeks of Yellow Vest protests, which call attention to the differences between France's wealthy and the working, middle class.

Another targeted the president directly: "Macron, what have you done to us?"

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