French police have used tear gas as violent clashes broke out in central Paris following another day of anti-LGBT protests attended by tens of thousands. A group of 200 young men and women bombarded riot police with bottles, stones, fireworks and flares.
They also attacked TV camera crews and press photographers working at the scene an hour after the demonstration officially ended.
About a dozen far-right activists climbed on to the roof of the Socialist party headquarters with a banner reading “Hollande resign!”
Clashes between riot police and hardline protesters erupted after the rally had officially ended and majority of protesters had gone home. The confrontation was less violent than earlier this week as only about 200 people engaged in the unrest.
The police said they arrested 96 hardline opponents to the gay marriage law following the end of the demonstration. The detained protesters refused to disperse and engaged in a fight with the security forces, or occupied private property.
Nearly 5,000 police took up positions across Paris on Sunday as the city braced for possible violence at the major protest in the capital that drew from 200,000 people, according to police, to over a million people, according to organizers.
Three rallies were headed by the anti-same-sex-marriage movement, while the fourth was led by the traditionalist Catholic lobby group, Civitas. By late afternoon, the protesters were beginning to fill the Invalides esplanade just across the Seine River from the Champs Elysees.
The area around Les Invalides monument was full of opponents of
same-sex marriages waving pink and blue flags, while far-right
activists hung a banner on the ruling Socialist Party’s
headquarters urging President Francois Hollande to quit.
The protesters have been heading from the three points around the city, and the march has reportedly been largely peaceful. Prior to Sunday’s protest, 50 demonstrators were arrested Saturday evening after chaining themselves to metal barriers in the middle of the Champs Elysées and firing smoke canisters. Police also seized a van carrying masks, banners and smoke bombs.
Among those among those who have taken part in the demonstration were members of a radical new movement called French Spring, which the French Interior Ministry may ban over its “call for violence.”
This comes after the group released a statement threatening to
target "the government and all its appendices, the collaborating
political parties and lobbies where the ideological programmers are
developed and the organs which spread it."
This is the first such rally in Paris since France officially became the 14th country in the world and the ninth in EU to legalize same-sex marriage after President Francois Hollande signed a law on May 18. The rally was planned long before the government voted on the law earlier than expected.
It also comes just three days before the first same-sex marriage is held in Montpellier in southern France on May 29, Reuters reported.
France has seen months of street protests, bitter political debates, clashes between police and demonstrators, and even a rise in homophobic attacks, prompting President Hollande's government to call for an end to the violence and issue threats of severe punishment for such crimes.
The situation escalated Tuesday when far-right writer Dominique Venner, who is linked to a far-right French nationalist party, shot and killed himself inside Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral. He had called for “spectacular” action to protect France’s identity, and was denouncing same-sex marriage law.