Doctors, nurses and other health care workers took to the streets in France on Tuesday to demand improvements to the health sector as the country moves past the worst of the coronavirus epidemic.
The protesters numbered “several thousand” in Paris, where violence broke out as radical groups clashed with police, according to local press.
Up to 220 rallies were planned up and down the country.
“No more applause, time for rallies,” was one of the slogans, referencing the lockdown habit of clapping for health care workers to pay tribute to their hard work.
“We don’t want a medal or a small bonus on the sly, we want a salary commensurate with what our jobs bring to society,” one protester near the southern city of Montpellier told Le Monde.
In Paris, footage shared on social media showed black bloc activists shoving an overturned car down the road and police responding with tear gas close to Place des Invalides. Another video showed a fire at the same rally.
“The health care workers are not responsible for the actions committed on the Place des Invalides,” one doctor told broadcaster BFM TV, adding that there were people who “wanted to manipulate the demonstration.”
The police said 34 people had been arrested as of late afternoon, denouncing “hooligans that have nothing to do with health workers.”
One footage allegedly showed a nurse being pinned down by the police and later taken into custody. Rough handling of protesters by the police has recently sparked outrage in the country, leading the government to mull over changes to police methods.
Earlier it had been announced that a rally was to take place in front of the ministry of health, not far from Place des Invalides, and that it was to be attended by trade union leaders, among them Philippe Martinez of the leading CGT union.
Martinez had given an interview on television earlier on Tuesday, saying that enough time had been wasted assessing problems in the health care sector.
“The problem of staff shortages, the problem of recognition of diplomas and qualifications, bed closures, these are not new. We need answers and it’s dragging on,” he said.
“We consider money that is put into a hospital not an expense, it is an investment. We’re not in the private sector.”