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Hundreds Arrested in Paris May Day Protests

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  • May Day protests in France turned violent and have resulted in over 200 arrests.
  • In addition to Yellow Vests, Black Bloc marchers also were present, a group known for inciting more chaos.
  • Other protests also happened worldwide, with other locations also seeing violence.

Paris May Day Protests Lead to Violence

Over 200 people have been arrested during May Day demonstrations in Paris.

According to the French Interior Ministry, 28,000 people turned out to protests in France’s capital city. However, news outlets France 24, as well as several labor groups and unions say that number could be as high as 40,000. These protests, which included members of the Yellow Vest movement and Black Bloc group, turned violent.

Violence at May Day demonstrations is common in France. Also known as International Worker’s Day, May Day is a public holiday in the country. Every year there are worker’s defense marches on this day.

However this year there were warnings that the situation could escalate further than usual. Authorities received notice that about 2,000 Black Bloc protesters would attend. The group is often described as “far-left” and “anarchist.” They are known for radical actions and inciting chaos.

During Wednesday’s protests, there were reports of car windows being smashed, small fires starting, and protesters throwing rocks and other objects at police.

Over 7,400 officers were deployed throughout Paris. Police also allegedly used tear gas to control crowds.

Preventative measures were also taken to quell the violence. Officers searched over 15,000 bags and ordered 580 local businesses to close for the day.

Police are urging protesters to step away from the violence so they can access a clearer path to intervene.

What Are the Yellow Vests?

The Yellow Vest movement began in November, initially fighting against a proposed fuel tax hike. After three weeks of protesting, which turned violent and resulted in at least four deaths, French President Emmanuel Macron scrapped the tax hike.

Protesters still are fighting against Macron’s economic policies. They believe he is too easy on the wealthy and is detached from ordinary citizens in the lower and working classes.

Specifically, protesters want higher taxes on wealthy people, lower taxes for workers and pensioners, and more public spending to benefit the working class. Many also are calling for Macron to resign, and are pushing to hold early elections in the hopes of voting him out sooner.

Yellow Vests received a lot of support at the start of their movement, with two-thirds of French citizens saying they were in favor of it. However, support has since dwindled. By February, over half of the country believed the protests should end.

France’s problems with Macron have not gone away though. At his lowest, the president’s approval rating was 23 percent. It has since spiked up to under 30.

Macron is trying to appease those in the Yellow Vest movement. Last week, he proposed a 5 billion euro tax cut for lower and working classes. However, many protesters don’t see this as enough.

Macron has yet to respond to the violence that erupted during Wednesday’s protests. However, he did tweet about the values behind May Day.

May Day Rallies World Wide

Paris was not alone in holding a massive May Day demonstration. There were 230 all around France, but the demonstration in Paris was the only one in the country to incite any violence.

Around Europe and the globe, several other countries also used May Day as an opportunity to take to the streets. In various locations, violence also erupted.

According to the Associated Press, in Sweden, protesters allegedly threw cobblestones at police. The officers were blocking them from a neo-Nazi rally that received official approval to gather on May Day.

In Russia, over 100 people were detained in demonstrations all over the country. At least 68 of the detainees were in St. Petersburg, where people were calling for a fairer election process.

Three people were also injured in Italy. Officers were blocking a demonstration against a high-speed railway being built between Italy and France. Those injured included two protesters and one officer.

Several other countries, including Denmark, Greece, Spain, Germany, Turkey, South Africa, Sri Lanka, South Korea, and more also saw massive May Day rallies.

See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (France 24) (Reuters)

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E.U. and U.S. Sanction Russian Officials Over Navalny Detention

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  • The E.U. and U.S. coordinated new sanctions against seven Russian officials tied to the current fate of activist and Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.
  • More efforts are expected to follow, with officials claiming that 14 Russian entities tied to the manufacturing of Novichok – the rare nerve agents that supposedly poisoned Navalny – are the next to be sanctioned.
  • Despite the sanctions, Biden’s administration hopes to be able to work with Russia on other world issues, such as nuclear arms in Iran and North Korea.
  • Navalny himself isn’t likely to benefit from the sanctions as he’s serving a 2.5-year prison sentence in one of Russia’s most notorious penal colonies.

Coordinated Efforts by E.U. and U.S.

The U.S. and E.U. both announced coordinated sanctions against Russia Tuesday morning over the poisoning, arrest, and detention of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.

In particular, seven senior officials are targeted by the sanctions.

  • Federal Security Service Director Aleksandr Bortnikov
  • Chief of the Presidential Policy Directorate Andrei Yarin
  • First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Sergei Kiriyenko
  • Deputy Minister of Defense Aleksey Krivoruchko
  • Deputy Minister of Defense Pavel Popov
  • Federal Penitentiary Service director Alexander Kalashnikov
  • Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov.

Both the E.U. and U.S. also plan to add fourteen entities that are involved in making the extremely deadly Russian nerve agent Novichok.

First Step For Biden

These sanctions are the first such action by the Biden administration against Russia and seem to be a tone shift from the previous administration. The Trump administration was considered relatively soft on Russia and only enacted a few sanctions over election interference, which were only softly enforced.

One U.S. official, according to NBC News reportedly said, that “today is the first such response, and there will be more to come.”

“The United States is neither seeking to reset our relations with Russia nor are we seeking to escalate,” the official went on to add.

The man at the center of all this, Alexei Navalny, has been an outspoken critic of Putin who was arrested when he returned to Russia from Germany after being treated for Novichok poisoning.

He was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison over alleged fraud crimes and is reported to have been sent to one of Russia’s worst penal colonies outside of the city of Pokrov to serve out his term.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (NPR) (NBC News)

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Biden Faces Criticism Over U.S. Airstrike in Syria

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  • On Friday, the U.S. conducted an airstrike against an Iranian-back militia in Syria after it shot rockets into northern Iraq and injured U.S. service personnel.
  • The airstrike marks the first in Biden’s presidency, and while normally a routine response, it caused particular backlash against the president, who campaigned on getting out of “forever wars” in the region.
  • Many felt like Biden was more concerned with bombing people in the Middle-East than he was with passing his $1.9 trillion stimulus package, which was being debated by Congress at the time.
  • The targeting of an Iranian-backed militia likely didn’t help efforts to start informal talks with Iran on Sunday in an effort to reignite the Iran Nuclear Deal.

Striking Back Against Militias

The U.S. military conducted an airstrike on an Iranian-backed militia in Syria on Friday, marking it as the first such airstrike under President Joe Biden’s term.

The airstrike was conducted as retaliation after the militia launched rockets into northern Iraq; killing civilians, contractors, and injuring a U.S. service member as well as other coalition troops.

Despite airstrikes being a routine response for such situations over the last 20 years, the decision caused Biden to face intense backlash in the U.S.

For many, it set the tone and seemed to contradict some of his earlier stances when running for office. In 2019, for instance, Biden made it clear that he wanted to get out of Iraq as soon as possible, as well as speed up the removal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. However, such airstrikes are often blamed for further entrenching the U.S. in the region.

Biden received criticism across the political spectrum, with only a few conservatives praising the airstrike as a necessary move to protect U.S. troops.

In Congress, many Democrats called the move unconstitutional, a stance the party has had since at least 2018 when Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said a similar airstrike conducted by President Trump required the approval of Congress. The Biden administration pushed back against this, sending a letter to Congress on Sunday saying the president had the power to use limited force without the body’s approval via the War Power Act.

Public Perception in a Downward Spiral

Many Americans have mocked Biden for seemingly feeling comfortable enough to use his executive power to bomb militias while also expressing apprehension toward using that same power to forgive student loans.

Others pushed back against the idea that the airstrike was a form of defensive retaliation

“This latest Biden airstrike is being spun as “defensive” and “retaliatory” despite its targeting a nation the US invaded (Syria) in response to alleged attacks on US forces in another nation the US invaded (Iraq),” wrote one user on Twitter, “You can’t invade a nation and then claim self-defense there. Ever.”

Some of the biggest criticism the president received came from those who said it seemed like his priorities were off-base. Because while the airstrike was conducted, Congress was debating his $1.9 trillion stimulus package.

Civil Rights activist Ja’Mal Green, for instance, tweeted, “We didn’t flip Georgia Blue for Biden to air strike Syria. We flipped Georgia Blue for our $2,000 Stimulus Checks.”

However, it’s worth noting that there’s not much Biden can do right now to push his stimulus package through Congress, other than attempt to convince some on-the-fence senators like Joe Manchin (D-WV). Still, the perception of confused priorities was enough to anger many.

All of this likely didn’t help when the E.U. foreign policy chief, on behalf of all the countries who signed the Iran Nuclear deal, attempted to convince Iran to engage in informal talks to try and restart the deal on Sunday. A proposal was shot down by Iran.

Considering the recent actions and statements by the United States and three European powers, Iran does not consider this the time to hold an informal meeting with these countries,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh

See what others are saying: (BBC) (NBC) (CNN)

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Nigerian Gunmen Kidnap Over 300 Students From Boarding School

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  • Gunmen abducted 317 girls from a Nigerian boarding school early Friday morning, making it the second major abduction in the northwest area of the country in over a week.
  • Militants loaded some girls on trucks while others were walked into the nearby Rugu forest, which covers hundreds of miles and is spread over three states.
  • Authorities believe these abductions are being carried out by armed bandit groups seeking random rather than the jihadist groups in the region.
  • According to terror analysts, kidnapping is quickly becoming one of the most thriving industries in Nigeria and has led to 10.5 million Nigerian children being out of school – the most of any nation.

Abductions Before Dawn

Gunmen abducted 317 students early Friday morning from the Nigerian Government Girls Secondary School in Jangebe, Zamfara state.

They entered the building shooting, although it’s clear if anyone was hurt, and forced many girls onto trucks while others into the nearby Rugu forest, which covers hundreds of square miles and crosses multiple states. Some girls escaped, but by morning it was clear to the local community that hundreds were taken.

Zamfara police and security forces, backed by Nigerian army reinforcements, said they are in pursuit of the abductors.

This abduction is the second in a little over a week in the northwest area of the country. At the Kagara Government Science College in Niger state, dozens of schoolboys were abducted on February 17.

In December, 344 boys in Katsina state were also abducted before being freed a week later. At the time, the kidnappers claimed a ransom had been paid, a common motivation for such abductions, but security forces say the children were freed after they had surrounded the group.

Was the Kidnapping for Ransom?

Many abductions have a monetary aspect, with ransoms quickly being demanded; however, it’s currently unclear if Friday’s events were carried out by local bandits looking for a payout or one of the nation’s myriad of jihadist groups that occasionally take hostages.

Most are leaning towards believing this was a kidnapping for ransom due to it quickly becoming the nation’s most thriving industry, according to Bulama Bukarti, a terror analyst and columnist of northern Nigeria’s largest paper.

Unfortunately, the constant kidnapping in less-stable parts of the country, along with economic hardships, have caused parents to pull their children out of schools. Currently, there are more than 10.5 million Nigerian children out of school, the most of any nation. The issue is so prevalent that 1 in 5 of the world’s unschooled children are in Nigeria.

The government has struggled to respond to the rise of kidnappings, with officials both on the civilian side and within the military unsure of how to proceed. On one hand, there are those who want to deal with the issue head-on and attack kidnappers, but others want to try and resolve the issue with dialogue.

See what others are Saying: (NPR) (CNN) (Wall Street Journal)

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