Paris May Day protests: Shock over hospital break-in

"Black block" and gilets jaunes protesters in Paris, 1 May 19Image copyright
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“Black block” activists engaged in running battles with police in Paris

A famous Paris hospital is lodging a legal complaint after dozens of May Day protesters broke in and nearly burst into an intensive care unit.

La Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital director Marie-Anne Ruder said some protesters wore masks and some were gilets jaunes (“yellow-vest”) activists.

Footage on Twitter appeared to show police chasing protesters near the hospital buildings, through an open gate.

Ms Ruder said staff blocked protesters at the door of the intensive care unit.

Within minutes police reached the unit on the first floor and overpowered the protesters, French media reported. Police detained about 30 of them.

French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, who went to the scene during the fracas, described it as an “attack” by “black block” far-left, anti-capitalist militants.

The black-clad militants have been accused of vandalising property during repeated yellow-vest clashes with police in the past six months.

The large teaching hospital is in the 13th arrondissement (district) in central Paris, near Place d’Italie, where police used tear gas to disperse demonstrators on Wednesday.

Video posted by David Dufresne on Twitter showed a chaotic scene in the hospital grounds, with police chasing protesters.

Mr Dufresne tweeted: “I saw these protesters at La Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital entrance, they were trying to shelter because a column of CRS (anti-riot police) was coming up from the boulevard.”

Traditionally a union-led day of action in France, the 1 May event was marked by the presence of “black block” and yellow-vest activists. Some smashed shop windows and threw projectiles at the more than 7,000 officers deployed in Paris.

Ms Ruder said the hospital staff were “deeply shocked that the hospital could have been targeted”.

She said a group outside the intensive care unit “tried to push the door open, and our staff were there trying to block them and tell them they couldn’t enter”.

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Media captionPolice used tear gas and water cannon as some protesters hurled projectiles

A Paris hospital manager, Martin Hirsch, told French media that the staff “prevented a bunch of vandal protesters from endangering patients”.

He said he did not know if the protesters were “fleeing from something”. “I don’t know what prompted this inexplicable intrusion (by protesters),” he said.

In the Paris streets, police used tear gas and water cannon against protesters and arrested 380 people.

About 38 people were wounded, including 14 officers – one of whom was hit in the head with a paving stone.

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