Reports have emerged of trouble at certain road blockades set up by “yellow vest” protesters in France, who are angry over rising fuel prices and diminishing spending power.
While most of the flash points passed off peacefully, tempers flared at times as some drivers confronted the protesters or tried to force their way through the barricades.
Referring to incidents on Saturday night into Sunday France's Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said: “Last night was restive… There were assaults, fights, stabbings.”
“There were fights among 'yellow vest' protesters. There was a lot of alcohol at certain venues, which led to this idiotic behaviour.”
On Saturday over 150 protesters were taken into custody for various offences that saw over 400 fellow demonstrators injured, several seriously.
There were also numerous arrests of drivers who forced their way through blockades, including one woman who is being investigated on suspicion of manslaughter after she drove her car into a protester at a road block in the eastern Savoie department.
A British and an Australian driver were arrested near Calais for driving through protesters and in the Dordogne one “yellow vest” was dragged for over 400 metres after being hit by a driver. The motorist was then arrested by police.
But shocking incidents at a small number of road blocks have led to condemnation of the yellow vest movement.
In Bourg-en-Bresse in eastern France two town councillors were the victim of an alleged homophobic assault at a blockade outside the Leclerc supermarket in the town.
The two men were reportedly pulled from their car after trying to force their way through the blockade.
“I heard one of the protesters say 'I recognise him. He's gay'. After that they began threatening us,” said victim Raphaël Duret.
The pair told local newspaper La Voix de L'Ain that they were subject to kicks and punches until police were able to intervene. Duret said he had to be escorted out of the area by police after receiving death threats.
He then published pictures online of his smashed up car.
The incident prompted Interior Minister Christophe Castaner to condemn the “odious act”.
“Every insult, every homophobic attack is an insult to the Republic. Solidarity with the victims,” said Castaner.
In Saint-Quentin in the Aisne department of northern France there were reports of a female Muslim driver being forced to remove her veil by protesters as she tried to get through the road block.
One witness reported that several protesters put their yellow vests around their heads in the form of a Muslim veil to mock the woman.
The lead organiser of the blockade said he was shocked by the incident. “That's not normal. I am against it. We will stop all this,” he told local media.
In the town of Cognac in western France a black woman was reportedly the victim of racist insults.
“Go home, go back to your country”, “get lost” were some of the insults shouted at her as seen in a video published in La Charente Libre newspaper.
The video below shows the altercation between the woman and protesters, with one reportedly shouting “we don't want to hear about the history of black people anymore”.
Police in the department of Charente later announced on Twitter they were investigating the incident.
The local newspaper L'Est Republicain reported that a local journalist was the victim of racist abuse before being punched by a protester at a road block in the eastern town of Châteaufarine.
One image that was shared widely on Twitter showed a journalist from BFMTV having an egg smashed over his head by a protester in Paris on Saturday night.
— Nils Wilcke (@paul_denton) November 17, 2018
There were also reports of protesters getting involved in skirmishes among themselves often after consuming alcohol at the blockades.
At one road block in the Drôme a protester who was asked to leave the demonstration because he was so drunk later returned by car with a rifle and fired into the air.
He then drove his car into a group of yellow vested protesters injuring two of them. The driver was then dragged from his car and beaten by his fellow yellow vests who then set his vehicle ablaze.
Some readers of The Local who were caught up in the road blocks had little sympathy for protesters describing them as “intimidating yobs”.
“I was simply trying to get home and it was very intimidating and frightening being surrounded by these guys. How is scaring and kicking the crap out of ordinary people’s cars the right thing to do?” said one reader.
But given there were hundreds of road blocks in place over the last few days most of the protests took place without incident.
The video below shows a more goodnatured road block, with protesters dancing in unison.