• France's news in English

Hundreds arrested at Paris gay marriage rally

AFP/The Local · 27 May 2013, 11:00

Published: 27 May 2013 08:46 GMT+02:00
Updated: 27 May 2013 11:00 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

At least 150,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Paris to protest a new law allowing gay marriage, a largely peaceful gathering that later turned violent as riot police battled hundreds of right-wingers.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls said on Monday that police had made a total of 350 arrests, and that 36 people had been injured: 34 police officers, one AFP photojournalist and one protester.

In a statement, Valls blamed the "extreme right" for the violence.

"These incidents were provoked by several hundred individuals, most from the extreme right and the (nationalist) Bloc Identitaire, who violently attacked police," he added.

The rally came as the jury at the Cannes film festival in southern France on Sunday awarded its Palme d'Or top prize to the sexually graphic lesbian love story "Blue is the Warmest Colour" by French-Tunisian director Abdellatif Kechiche.

The main demonstration on Sunday saw three separate processions converging on the Invalides esplanade, filling the huge promenade with pink and blue – the colours adopted by the anti-gay marriage movement.

Police said 150,000 people turned out to protest, a figure immediately contested by organizers who said one million opponents of the law had shown up.

Some of the far-right activists briefly unfurled a banner at the ruling Socialist party's headquarters urging President Francois Hollande to resign.

As the protesters dispersed, after a largely peaceful march, police said up to 500 people began attacking them by throwing metal barriers, smoke flares and beer bottles.

The youths shouted slogans against the government such as "Socialist dictatorship" and also threw objects at journalists covering the event.

A video from France TV Info shows disturbances at Sunday's rally, including images of 
protestors kicking and beating photojournalists between 0:20 and 0:32.

Late on Saturday, police had detained 50 people involved in an anti-gay marriage protest on the busy Champs-Elysées avenue.

Fears of unrest at Sunday's protest had been fueled by violence that erupted earlier this month during celebrations marking football club Paris Saint-Germain's league victory, which saw tourists attacked and shop and car windows smashed.

Some 4,500 security forces were mobilized for Sunday's demonstration that was billed as a last-ditch show of force by opponents of the bill allowing same-sex marriage and adoption, which was voted into law on May 18th following months of bitter protests.

But those in the protest ignored the recent tensions, bringing their children along as others had in previous demonstrations.

"We keep hearing about a far-right movement, I can see only families here," said one man called Raoul, who came from the city of Dijon.

Onlookers were instead treated to creative forms of protest. One man dressed in black held a scythe and wore a mask of Hollande as he stood behind a coffin containing a mannequin dressed as Marianne, the emblem of France.

"Hollande, your mother isn't called Robert", shouted some of the demonstrators in a slogan that gained in popularity as the afternoon progressed.

Supporters and opponents of the bill began protesting last autumn when it was adopted by the cabinet, and continued to do so at regular intervals throughout the country during the legislative process.

Story continues below…

The definitive vote in the French parliament came on April 23rd when the law was passed, legalizing both homosexual marriages and adoptions by gay couples.

One of Hollande's campaign pledges, it has proved hugely divisive in a country that is officially secular but predominantly Catholic.

France is the 14th country to legalize same-sex marriage, an issue that has also divided opinion in many other nations.

In Brazil, tens of thousands of evangelical Christians marched in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday protesting a recent legal ruling allowing gay marriage.

And in Poland, some 10,000 protesters marched Sunday in solidarity with opponents of the French law, to defend the traditional family structure.

But according to a survey published on Sunday in the Journal du Dimanche, nearly three-quarters of French people are tired of the anti-bill protests and think they should stop.

Another potential flashpoint will be in the southern town of Montpellier on Wednesday when the country's first gay wedding is due to take place.

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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Paris: 'Flying' water taxis to be tested on River Seine
Photo: SeaBubbles

An in Seine idea surely? But tests will go ahead.

France joins fight for rich pickings from post-Brexit UK
Photo: AFP/DcnH/Flickr

France tries to woo EU's bank regulator and other agencies.

How speaking French can really mess up your English
Photo: CollegeDegree360/Flickr

So you've mastered French, but now it's time to learn English all over again.

French claims that Jungle camp is empty are rubbished
Photo: AFP

Reports from the scene say scores of migrants are still in the area of the Jungle despite French authorities claiming "mission fulfilled."

Kidnapped Riviera millionaire left tied up in car boot in Nice
Photo: AFP

Head of luxury Cannes hotel has been found alive after being kidnapped in Nice on Monday.

Paris landlords still charging illegally high rents
Photo: Panoramas/Flickr

... and it's tenants in the smaller apartments that get hit the hardest. Could you be paying too much?

France takes baby steps to make life simpler
Photo: AFP

... including extending the ridiculously short time limit for registering a new baby.

IN PICTURES: Calais Jungle camp goes up in flames
All Photos: AFP

Migrants leave behind a scorched camp as they are moved to locations across France.

French expats in UK suffer Brexit abuse
French ambassador to the UK Sylvie Bermann with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Photo: AFP

French nationals no longer feel at home in the UK, ambassador says. But Brits in France have been greeted with sympathy since the referendum.

Six to go on trial in France over topless Kate photos
Photo: AFP

The topless pics sparked fury among the royals.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available