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Paris clashes tarnish Macron's military parade

China Daily | Updated: 2019-07-16 09:26
Firefighters extinguish a fire on the Champs Elysees avenue near the Arc de Triomphe during clashes with protesters after the Bastille Day military parade in Paris on Sunday. PASCAL ROSSIGNOL/REUTERS

PARIS - French police fired tear gas to disperse protesters from the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris on Sunday, a few hours after French President Emmanuel Macron had reviewed the traditional Bastille Day military parade alongside other European leaders.

Key leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, joined Macron in Paris to watch the annual parade. In the parade were representatives of nine other European armies in a show of unity.

But the celebrations of France's national day were followed by clashes that erupted between protesters and police that recalled violence seen at the peak of the yellow vest protest movement earlier this year.

Protesters tore down security barriers, set fire to rubbish bins and portable toilets, and chanted anti-government slogans like "Macron resign!".

Several loud bangs could be heard. Protesters hurled objects at the police, booed and set bins on fire. Police drove some of the demonstrators to adjacent streets where they regrouped and set up new barricades, drawing more tear gas fire.

France's BFM television showed images of police firing tear gas to disperse the protesters, some hooded and trying to block the road with metal barricades, dustbins and other debris.

The earlier parade itself had gone without a hitch. About 4,300 members of the French armed forces marched down the Champs Elysees avenue's famed cobblestones in a tradition that dates back to just after World War I.

But standing in an open-top command car alongside France's chief of staff General Francois Lecointre, Macron was met with some jeers and whistles from supporters of the yellow vest movement.

Three prominent members of the movement, Jerome Rodrigues, Maxime Nicolle and Eric Drouet, were detained for several hours but later released, sources told Agence France-Presse.

The Paris Police Prefecture said on Twitter that it had ordered the protesters to leave the area, or be forcibly removed.

The Paris police said in a statement that calm returned to the avenue following the police intervention, with a total of 175 people detained during the day.

The number of yellow vest protesters has dwindled to a few hundred over the past weeks from a high of around 300,000 nationwide in November when demonstrations started against fuel price hikes and later morphed into a general discontent against Macron's policies and government.

Paris authorities had banned all yellow vest demonstrations near the parade and so few of the protesters wore the high-visibility jackets that give their movement its name.

But several groups linked to the grassroots movement had called for gatherings around the Champs Elysees avenue on Bastille Day, a national holiday in France. And earlier a French police source and a court source said 152 protesters whom they linked to the yellow vest movement - had been detained near the avenue as they tried to stage a protest.

Agencies

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