IN PICTURES: Clashes on Champs-Elysées as ‘Freedom Convoys’ enter Paris

Paris police fired tear gas as they cleared protesters from 'Freedom Convoys' who had gathered on the Champs-Elysées on Saturday, defying a ban on entering the French capital.

IN PICTURES: Clashes on Champs-Elysées as 'Freedom Convoys' enter Paris
Police trucks are parked in front of the Arc de Triomphe, on the Champs Elysees in Paris. Photo by Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP)

Around 100 protesters made it onto the Champs-Elysées – policed fired tear gas as the cleared the protesters, many of whom were issued with fines, with the avenue cleared by 5pm.

Many cars and camper vans that had been part of the convoy were towed away.

The convoys, which are made up of a loose collective of anti-vaxxers, those opposed to the vaccine pass and people protesting against the rising cost of living, set off from towns across France on Thursday, with the aim of converging on the capital.

The Paris police préfecture announced that the demonstrations were banned, and over Friday night and Saturday morning thousands of officers have deployed at the city gates to keep the convoys out. 

By Saturday lunchtime, 5 arrests had been made and 283 fines issued.

Many bars and cafés in the Champs-Elysées area closed up, fearful of violence and vandalism.

Paris police tweeted pictures of the vehicles they say they will use to clear the streets, and also some of the weapons that the say had been confiscated from protesters.

Police had also deployed armoured vehicles to keep the Champs-Elysées clear, an echo of the days of the ‘yellow vest’ protesters, who were banned from the famous thoroughfare after shops were trashed and torched after a demonstration in December 2018.

Police officers stop vehicles at Porte de Saint-Cloud, western Paris. Photo by Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP

Aurelie M., a 42-year-old administrative assistant in a Parisian company, complained that the health pass meant she could no longer take a long-distance TGV train even if she tested negative for Covid in a home test.

“There’s so much inconsistency and unfairness,” she told AFP, noting that commuters could still cram onto a crowded Paris metro without proof of vaccination.

Sixty-five-year-old factory worker Jean-Paul Lavigne said he travelled across the country from the southwestern town of Albi to protest fuel, food and electricity price hikes as well as the pressure on people to get vaccinated.

On Friday, president Emmanuel Macron called for calm, saying he understand the “fatigue” with the health restrictions.

“This fatigue also leads to anger. I understand it and I respect it. But I call for the utmost calm,” he told the Ouest-France newspaper.

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French pensioner pushed out of 17th-floor window ‘may have been victim of anti-Semitic attack’

An 89-year-old man who was pushed out of his 17th-storey window by a neighbour may have been killed because he was Jewish, a prosecutor said on Friday, after several shocking anti-Semitic murders in France in recent years.

French pensioner pushed out of 17th-floor window 'may have been victim of anti-Semitic attack'

The victim’s body was found at the foot of his building in Lyon, southeast France, on May 17th and the 51-year-old neighbour was arrested. But investigators did not initially charge him with a racist crime.

Last Sunday, the BNVCA anti-Semitism watchdog group said it would seek to be a plaintiff in the case, citing its similarity with the 2017 murder of Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old thrown from her window in a case that sparked national outcry.

“After social media postings were provided to us, the prosector’s office has asked judges to consider the aggravating circumstance of an act committed because of the victim’s ethnicity, nationality, race or religion,” Lyon prosecutor Nicolas Jacquet told AFP.

He did not provide examples of the posts, but Gilles-William Goldnadel, a lawyer and commentator for CNews television, said on Wednesday on Twitter that the suspect had called out Goldnabel in messages, including one that told him to “remember your origins.”

“It’s no longer a question of telling us it’s the act of a mentally disturbed person. The truth of anti-Semitism must no longer be hidden,” Goldnadel wrote.

France has grappled with a sharp rise in violence targeting its roughly 500,000 Jews, the largest community in Europe, in addition to jihadist attacks in recent years.

The murder of Halimi drew particular outrage after the killer, who had shouted “Allahu akbar” (“God is greatest” in Arabic), avoided trial because a judge determined he was under the influence of drugs and not criminally responsible.

That prompted President Emmanuel Macron to seek a law change to ensure people face responsibility for violent crimes while under the influence of drugs, which was adopted in December 2021.

In 2018, 85-year-old Mireille Knoll was brutally stabbed in an attack by two men said to have been looking for “hidden treasures” in her Paris apartment.