France: Police fire tear gas in clashes with yellow-vest protestors
Demonstrators criticise fundraising for Notre Dame rebuild as not for ‘the poor’
Clashes broke out between dozens of demonstrators and police in Paris on the 23rd Saturday of yellow-vest protests after authorities warned that rioters could return to the French capital to spark a new wave of violence.
Dozens of hooded demonstrators threw rocks at police and some set fire to scooters and rubbish bins in the centre of the French capital, according to Reuters TV footage.
Police responded by firing tear gas and stun grenades. Some officers also marched toward demonstrators to control the crowd and funnel it to Paris’ Place de la République, where most of the demonstrators were contained in the late afternoon.
As of 1pm local time, a total of 9,600 people were demonstrating across France, including 6,700 in Paris, the interior ministry said.
This is more than last week’s protest, which drew 7,500 demonstrators, but represents only a fraction of the record 282,000 estimated on November 17th, the first day of the protests.
As of 2pm, 110 people had been arrested and placed in custody, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.
Several demonstrators alluded to the catastrophic fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral on Monday, which prompted an outpouring of national sorrow and a rush by wealthy families and corporations to pledge around €1 billion for its reconstruction.
“Millions for Notre Dame, what about for us, the poor?” read a sign worn by a demonstrator. “Everything for Notre Dame, nothing for the misérables,” read another sign that evoked Victor Hugo’s well-known novel.
The city was on high alert after Christophe Castaner, the interior minister, said domestic intelligence services had informed him of a potential return of rioters intent on wreaking havoc in Paris, Toulouse, Montpellier and Bordeaux, in a repeat of violent protests which took place on March 16th.
Large portions of the Paris metro network were closed and about 60,000 police were deployed across France, authorities said.
Police also fired tear gas in the city of Toulouse, where thousands of people were demonstrating, including hundreds of motorcyclists holding a large banner asking for president Emmanuel Macron’s resignation.
There were about 1,500 to 2,000 people demonstrating in the streets of Bordeaux, according to a Reuters witness.
The yellow-vest protests erupted in mid-November 2018 over fuel price hikes and the high cost of living but spiralled into a broader movement against Mr Macron and his drive for economic reforms.
The French leader was due to unveil policies to quell the grassroot movement on Monday, before the blaze at Notre Dame forced him to cancel the speech. He is now set to make his announcements next Thursday. – Reuters