Blame game follows the battle of Champs-Elysées

Angry recriminations flew back and forth on Monday as organizers of the anti-gay marriage march and the forces of order blamed each other for the violence which flared during Sunday's demo. A total of 98 people were arrested during scuffles, which left 30 officers injured.

Blame game follows the battle of Champs-Elysées
Protesters clash with police during Sunday's anti-gy marriage demo. Photo: Eric Feferberg/ AFP

Sunday's demos saw clashes break out between protesters and riot police when a minority of marchers tried to break through a cordon to get onto the Champs-Elysées, despite being banned from demonstrating on the famous avenue.

The skirmishes have provoked a furious row between organizers of the march, backed by opposition parties, and on the other side, the government, with accusations flying back and forth over who was to blame for the trouble.

Christine Boutin, leader of the Christian Democrats party has called on Interior Minister Manuel Valls to resign after she was caught up in a melee, which saw officers use tear gas to disperse protestors. Boutin was pictured lying on the road, with protesters trying to help her to her feet.

"The government is responsible," Boutin said.

An angry Lionel Tardy, UMP deputy for the Haute Savoie said: "Why fire tear gas to protect 100 metres of the Champs-Elysées?"

Marchers were also furious at the way police managed the protest.

"It's shameful to treat us with such brutality," a 16-year-old demonstrator named Marie told Le Parisien.

Valls however, has hit back, criticizing the organizers of the “Manif pour Tous” march for losing control of the marchers.

“Some groups tried to break through the cordons. The actions of the police helped to avoid more serious incidents because some protesters had the desire to go into battle.

“It was a difficult event to manage but the organizers were clearly out of their depth.”

The battle of the Champs-Elysées saw almost 100 protesters arrested with six held in custody overnight.  Around 30 police officers were also left slightly injured with sources telling TF1 that some right-wing activists were seen throwing missiles including smoke bombs at the police.

As well as a row over the police’s use of force, Monday morning headlines in the French media were dominated by the usual dispute over turn-out for the march.

Protestors are claiming 1.4 million marchers took to the streets but the police say the number was more like 300,000 – a discrepancy of 1.1 million. Final figures are due to be released later this week, but that is unlikely to put an end to the row.

France’s parliament has already passed a bill legalizing gay-marriage and adoption for same-sex couples, but the Senate is set to begin discussing the legislation on April 4th.

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Demonstrators gather in Paris to decry French bill on curbing police images

Several thousand people marched in French cities Saturday to protest a draft law that would place limits on the filming of on-duty police officers, a move condemned as a curb on press freedom.

Demonstrators gather in Paris to decry French bill on curbing police images
Protesters in central Paris march against the bill. Photo: AFP

The biggest gathering was near the Eiffel Tower in Paris and was closely watched by a large deployment of police.

In addition to representatives of the media, others included members of the “Yellow Vest” and “Extinction Rebellion” movements, along with individuals waving flags of the communist and green parties, and the FO trade union.

A banner deployed by the news agency Mediapart declared that “Democracy dies in obscurity”.

Late Friday, parliament approved an amended “comprehensive security” law which would criminalise the publication of images of on duty police officers with the intent of harming their “physical or psychological integrity”.

In practice, the law would restrict the publication of photos or videos taken of police officers' faces while in action.

In many cases an officer's face would have to be blurred.

Journalist unions say it could give police a green light to prevent them from doing their work and potentially documenting abuses by security forces.

An amendment clarifies that press freedom should in no way be hindered by the proposed measures.

French media are also concerned about potential rights abuse via the use of drones to watch demonstrations and facial recognition programmes linked to surveillance cameras.

French police have been taken to task in recent years for alleged brutality meted out to protesters and criminal suspects, especially those from black, Arab or other minorities.

In the northern city of Lille, around 1,000 demonstrators turned out, one of whom carried an English-language sign that said “Orwell was right” in a reference to the dystopian novel “1984”.

Others marched in the Brittany city of Rennes and in Montpellier on the Mediterranean coast, where some chanted: “Put down your arms and we'll put down our telephones.”

Article 24 of the draft law foresees a one-year prison term and a 45,000-euro fine for spreading images that show officers faces or allow them to be identified when such images harm their “physical or psychological integrity”.

Social media campaigns that expose individual officers are targets of the proposed legislation.

Police say they risk great personal threat in the line of duty, and dozens have been injured in clashes with protesters in recent years.

An attack on a police station outside Paris last month by dozens of people armed with fireworks and steel bars spurred the government into taking measures.