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Clashes erupt at anti-gay marriage protest in Paris

AFP/The Local · 24 Mar 2013, 19:41

Published: 24 Mar 2013 19:41 GMT+01:00

Police clashed with protesters next to the French capital's famed Champs Elysées, and members of the 'gendarmerie' used tear gas to "prevent demonstrators from accessing the off-limits area". Authorities had earlier this month refused protesters permission to march down Paris's famous avenue.

Between 100 and 200 frustrated protesters had reportedly attempted to breach a police barricade blocking them from entering the Champs Elysées. In response, riot police forcibly pushed them back from the fences, as well as spraying them with tear gas (see video below).

Jean-François Copé, leader of the centre-right opposition UMP party, who was present at the protest, called for President Hollande to be "held to account", and expressed his "indignation" that tear gas had been deployed "against families present with their children."

The hugely controversial bill to legalize same-sex marriage and adoption has been comfortably adopted by the lower chamber of parliament and will go to the Senate for examination and approval in April.

The upper house is unlikely to prevent the groundbreaking reform from becoming law by the summer. The protesters want the government to withdraw the project and put it to a referendum.

On Sunday, the demonstrators highlighted France's flagging economy, beset by mass layoffs and spiraling unemployment, attacking Socialist President François Hollande's government for ignoring pressing issues while pushing ahead with his election pledge of "Marriage for All".

Banners held up from balconies read: "We want work not gay marriage," and "No to gay extremism".

The Paris police had turned down a request from the protest organizers to march on the Champs Elysées on the ground it would be a threat to public order, partly because it borders the French presidential palace.

The demonstrators lined a five-kilometre route from the Paris business district of La Défence to the roundabout where the Arc de Triomphe is located.

Organizers claimed that at least 1.4 million had taken part but police put the number at around 300,000.

As the demonstrators gathered under chilly, grey skies, one organizer exhorted them on a megaphone to periodically lift their arms and legs to keep warm.

"We understand your frustration but please remain in the same place," he said.

The movement against gay marriage has given France a new celebrity in the form of its public face, Virginie Tellenne, a Parisian socialite who goes by the name of Frigide Barjot.

Her assumed name – a play on the name of French film star Brigitte Bardot, a sex symbol in the 1960s – translates as Frigid Loony.

"We want the president to deal with the economy and leave the family alone," Tellenne said on Sunday.

Somewhere between 340,000 and 800,000 demonstrators had flooded into the capital for an anti-gay marriage march in January.

IN PICTURES: CLICK HERE FOR A GALLERY OF IMAGES FROM JANUARY'S HISTORIC ANTI-GAY MARRIAGE PROTEST

A campaign orchestrated by the Catholic Church and belatedly backed by the mainstream centre-right opposition has steadily gathered momentum.

Story continues below…

But Hollande's support for the legislation has not wavered and his partner, Valerie Trierweiler, has revealed that the president will be attending the marriages of gay friends once the legislation is on the statute books.

Gay men and women can already adopt as individuals in France if approved by social services.

A separate law on providing medically assisted conception to gay couples, already extended to heterosexual couples unable to conceive, will be debated later in the year.

Video courtesy of SaymonMovie/Youtube

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Video courtesy of iTele.

AFP/The Local (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

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