France: Huge gay marriage protest turns violent in Paris

About 400,000 traditionalists take to streets to oppose new law

Riot police fought running battles with hard-right protesters in the heart of Paris at the end of a mostly peaceful demonstration against gay marriage.

About 200 young people, many of them masked, pelted police lines with bottles, stones, fireworks and flares. The crowd – led bizarrely at one stage by a lone bagpiper – chased and beat up TV crews and press photographers. Police and gendarmes responded with tear gas and baton charges.

There were surreal battle scenes on the Esplanade des Invalides beside the foreign ministry as 200 gendarmes in riot gear formed into defensive squares to beat off attacks from running bands of protesters. Although a hard core of about 200 hard-right youths started the fighting, many hundreds of other, soberly dressed, middle-class protesters cheered them on.

Priests in long cassocks observed the battles without attempting to intervene. Other, more peaceful demonstrators stood in lines or circles nearby holding hands, praying and singing as tear gas and red smoke from flares swirled around them.

Earlier about 400,000 people, including many children, had defied warnings of possible far-right violence and marched in peaceful protest against France's newly enacted law permitting same-sex marriage. Twenty members of a xenophobic far-right group, "Génération Identitaire", clambered on to the roof terrace of the headquarters of the Socialist party during the afternoon and unfurled a banner calling for the resignation of President François Hollande. They were rapidly dislodged and arrested by police.

Even before the violence broke out, the government said that there had been 96 arrests, mostly for possession of weapons.

The "marriage-for-all" law, allowing gay couples to marry in town halls and adopt children, passed its final legal and constitutional hurdles earlier this month.

The first officially recognised same-sex marriage in France will take place between two men in Montpellier on Wednesday.

The passage of the law, and warnings of possible violence, had been expected to dampen the ardour of protesters for what was billed as the "last demonstration" in a series of half a dozen large rallies that began in December. Police put the turn-out at 150,000. The organisers claimed 1,000,000. Other organisers estimated over 400,000, which seemed closest to the mark.

Same-sex marriage has provoked the most prolonged and powerful right-wing demonstrations in France for three decades. Since the law was passed, the movement has begun to splinter into moderate and extremist wings.

One of the principal leaders of the protests, the satirist turned activist Frigide Barjot stayed away from her own demonstration after receiving a flurry of death threats from extremist homophobes who accused her of being too moderate and a government "stooge".

"Frigide was wrong not to come," said Alain, 38, a lawyer who was demonstrating with his wife and two young sons. "The threat of violence is nothing in comparison to the threat we face from this law. This is just the beginning of a programme of legislation to impose the socialist ideology of one gender and to destroy the foundations of the family."

Many of the banners and signs in the protests made similarly apocalyptic claims about the importance of the law. The largest of the marches, starting in the well-heeled 16th arrondissement of Paris, was led by a 30ft-wide banner that proclaimed: "No to a change of civilisation."

The marchers insist that the real damage will come not from gay marriage but from allowing same-sex couples to adopt.

This, they say, will trample the fundamental principle that every child should have a mother and a father. It will also, they insist, blur or destroy the concept of "filiation" or parental origins and lead to a shallow, rootless, immoral society. As a result, many slogans appeared to complain about adoption or single-parent families as much as against gay marriage. "No, to the anonymity of origins" said one large banner held by 20 people.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
News
i100
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of the late singer Whitney Houston, poses at the premiere of
people
News
people
News
The frequency with which we lie and our ability to get away with it both increase to young adulthood then decline with age, possibly because of changes that occur in the brain
scienceRoger Dobson knows the true story, from Pinocchio to Pollard
Voices
The male menopause: those affected can suffer hot flushes, night sweats, joint pain, low libido, depression and an increase in body fat, among other symptoms
voicesSo the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Life and Style
health
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen