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May Day Demonstrations Attract Thousands Across Europe


More than a million people rallied in traditional May Day rallies across Europe. In Italy, labor unions had a strong message for the mafia, in Germany demonstrators protested against globalization and in Russia communists honored Lenin and Marx.

Hundreds of thousands turned out across Europe to take part in mainly peaceful May Day rallies.

In Italy, the three major trade unions gathered the Calabrian town of Locri, to give a strong message against the Mafia. They underlined the importance of the rule of law in the south of Italy and of economic development.

One union leader said Locri was chosen because it is an area that needs help. Unemployment in the region stands at more than 40 percent.

Union leader Luigi Angeletti said the square from where he addressed the crowd was chosen to thank young people and to tell them that the trade union will not leave them alone.

May Day rallies were held in other Italian cities, the biggest in Milan, where Education Minister Letizia Moratti, who is running for mayor in the city, was forced to leave because of protests against her. Rome celebrated with its annual huge May Day concert.

Labor unions in Germany protested the effect of globalization on Europe's largest economy, accusing firms of sacrificing jobs for quick profit. Years of slow economic growth and massive job cuts by German firms have pushed up unemployment in Germany, now at 11.5 percent.

The extreme right gathered in Paris. About 3,000 people listened to a speech by National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen at Place de l'Opera, after a march that began at a statue of Joan of Arc, whom the party views as its patron saint. Le Pen called for a "patriotic union" of the far right to support him in next year's presidential election

In the Austrian capital, Vienna, about 120,000 members of the opposition Social Democratic Party participated in a traditional May Day march, a show of party pride ahead of this autumn's parliamentary elections.

Thousands of workers from across the Britain joined a May Day march through the streets of London, held against a backdrop over health cuts, job insecurity, and pensions.

Union chief Tony Woodley called for British Prime Minister Tony Blair to resign.

"The reality of it is Mr. Blair has already decided to stand down himself - it is a question of timing," said Woodley. "The sooner that happens now and we get stability in our party with a new leader who makes their own mark, on what their policies are, what their government is and what the future is, that will be an awful lot better for British work, and men and women, and the British working public."

Some of the biggest May Day gatherings were held in Moscow, where thousands gathered in central Tverskaya Street to hear speeches from trade union leaders and the city mayor.

Meanwhile, communists marched from a square where there is a statue of Lenin to their usual rallying spot by a statue to Karl Marx, opposite the Bolshoi Theater.

In Bosnia, the unemployed marched down Sarajevo's main street, demanding new elections and the resignation of the government, which they claim is not doing enough to lower the 40- percent unemployment rate.

Thousands also marched in central Athens to protest the war in Iraq and the Greek government's economic policies.

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