Paris police clash with Yellow Vests as protests resume

Protesters running away from a cloud of tear gas at a demonstration during the 23rd consecutive Saturday of protests by the Yellow Vest movement in Paris yesterday. PHOTO: REUTERS
Protesters running away from a cloud of tear gas at a demonstration during the 23rd consecutive Saturday of protests by the Yellow Vest movement in Paris yesterday. PHOTO: REUTERS

Over 100 protesters arrested as Notre-Dame fire fails to dampen 23rd straight Saturday of action

PARIS • Paris police fired tear gas and arrested scores of protesters as the Yellow Vests began another Saturday of demonstrations with tens of thousands of police mobilised to maintain order.

Dozens of black-hooded demonstrators threw rocks at police forces in the centre of the French capital, according to Reuters TV footage. Trash cans and several scooters were also set ablaze.

Police responded by firing tear gas and stun grenades. Some officers also marched towards demonstrators to control the crowd and funnel it to Paris' Place de la Republique, where they were authorised to demonstrate.

Police headquarters reported 126 arrests and 11,000 checks on individual protesters.

The so-called Yellow Vest protests erupted in mid-November originally over fuel price hikes and the high cost of living but spiralled into a broader movement against President Emmanuel Macron and his drive for economic reforms.

The devastating fire last week at Notre-Dame Cathedral failed to dampen the 23rd straight Saturday of action, with key members of the movement saying that contesting Mr Macron's policies will not distract from grieving over damage to the iconic Gothic monument.

Several demonstrators clearly alluded to the catastrophic fire, which prompted an outpouring of national sorrow and a rush by rich families and corporations to pledge around €1 billion (S$1.5 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 miserables," read another sign that evoked Victor Hugo's well-known novel.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner warned last Friday that "Black Bloc" anarchists, who are blamed for the worst of the violent acts in recent weeks, were expected to join the Yellow Vests.

The Paris police banned protests near the Champs Elysees and Notre-Dame.

Protesters were marching yesterday from the French finance ministry on the banks of the Seine River to Place de la Republique in the city's centre.

Large portions of the Paris metro network were closed and about 60,000 police were deployed across France, the authorities said.

Mr Macron plans to hold a press conference on Thursday to outline tax and other measures he is proposing as a result of the "Great Debate", a two-month series of town-hall meetings he organised to let the French vent grievances raised by five months of protests.

A speech planned for last Monday was cancelled because of the Notre-Dame fire.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 21, 2019, with the headline 'Paris police clash with Yellow Vests as protests resume'. Print Edition | Subscribe