Riot police and protesters clashed in the heart of Palma yesterday as violent scenes up side streets off the calle Olmos marred the traditional May Day march through the capital. At least eight people were arrested as police and a group of around 50 members of the CNT union fought a pitched battle outside one of Palma's old social court houses which is now used by the UGT union and the Chamber of Commerce. The violent clashes broke out just after midday when a group of CNT unionists split off from the main march and started charging towards the old court house. The main entrance to the building was already blocked by a police riot van which had been stationed at the scene since Sunday when a small group of CNT members broke in to the building and mounted a sit in protest - which was short lived. Entering the street the unionists were met by a group of 12 heavily protected policemen armed with batons and shields blocking the entrance to the building. A hail of stones against the police van momentarily broke the peace of the stand-off, until a CNT activist, one of three who had somehow managed to get back in to the court house, threw a water bomb at the police cordon which sparked off five minutes of violent clashes. As protesters grabbed anything they could from a number of rubbish skips in the street to use as projectiles, police called for re-enforcements as they tried to push back the rioters using their batons and shields against the rain of missiles. Police managed to eventually push the protesters back down the side street in to the calle Olmos, which connects the Ramblas to Plaza d'España, at which point the rioters split up and started running off in different directions. One protester was arrested armed with a hammer and four more were nabbed by police before they could disappear. As the street cleared, missiles and broken glass lay in their wake and special riot squad officers armed with tear gas guns took up positions in the street in order to prevent tension flaring again. No serious injuries were reported last night, but a number of police suffered cuts and bruises caused by the hail of stones and bricks and widespread damage was done to windows and parked cars and police vehicles in the street. Elsewhere in the capital, the May Day march continued peacefully with some 2'000 people, including the Balearic Minister for Labour, Eberhard Grosske and the Minister for the Environment, Margalida Rossello, participating in the day of the Worker. The main theme of yesterday's march was for “stable and secure work with rights” for the workers. The government's new immigration law also came under fire. The 2'000 people marched from the Plaza d'España to the Parc de La Mar where a mass rally was held and demonstrators treated to an enormous paella. “More protection and more jobs” read some of the banners, “no to labour reforms” read others. Balearic President Francesc Antich admitted yesterday that his policies are different to those of central government and that his government is working hard to help marginal and minority groups find full time work. Antich also condemned the behaviour of the 50 CNT activists who clashed with police . The secretary general of the UGT Union, Lorenzo Bravo, described the clashes as an “anecdote” and that the willingness to “set things off” was limited to a minority of the CNT members. Nevertheless, they were some of the worst clashes Palma has witnessed for a great many years.

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