Police clash with souvenir sellers under Eiffel Tower

They are a familiar sight to visitors to the Eiffel Tower: souvenir sellers hawking knick-knacks ranging from plastic models of the famous structure to hats that double as umbrellas. But the police are not impressed, and following clashes with the vendors at the weekend, have vowed to crack down.

The director of the Paris prefect's office has announced that "each illegal seller will be systematically arrested and there will no longer be any tolerance for these sales". And in a sign of how seriously they are taking the situation, the prefecture has deployed the CRS, France's anti-riot force. "We have decided to occupy the area, to have police there nearly 24 hours a day," said Jean-Luc Mercier, the deputy director of police for the Paris region.

On most days, there are street sellers every few metres all the way from the Champ de Mars, behind the Eiffel Tower, to the Place du Trocadéro, about a kilometre away on the other side, but yesterday most of the sellers kept away. There were seven police vans deployed in the area, and pairs of CRS officers patrolled the streets.

Laws brought in this March allow police to bring in the sellers for questioning, and up to 550 have been taken in since then. Mr Mercier said the reinforced police presence has been in place for several months, but it was only yesterday that the sellers had dispersed.

Clashes began on Friday after one of the street sellers was electrocuted on a metro line while running from the police. His life is no longer in danger, but vendors were outraged. As the police moved forward on Friday evening, the sellers retreated into the darkness, some of them shouting "racists". Three policemen were injured on Sunday by projectiles thrown by street sellers.

Most of the illegal sellers come from sub-Saharan Africa or the Indian sub-continent. Mr Mercier said the illegal sellers have told him they can make up to €500 (£440) day. Police figures show there are sometimes up to 300 vendors under the Eiffel Tower.

"They are more numerous than the tourists," said Ivan Bratacos, who runs a souvenir stall on Place de Trocadéro. "Their numbers have tripled in the last three years and our profits have gone down 300 per cent in that time."

In the Eiffel Tower's official shop, a mini tower costs €2; the street sellers charge €1 for five. The relations between the street sellers and local stall-holders have got worse as the number of street sellers has increased. Shopkeeper Ali Gamon has a scar on his head. He said he had to have eight stitches after a street seller hit him with a 40cm Eiffel Tower a couple of years ago. "We're dying," said another souvenir shopkeeper. "This is the last year for us. We can't stand up against them financially."

But the street sellers – many of whom police say are in France illegally – retort that they have to work to make a living and provide for their families. "It's not legal what we do, but we don't have a choice," said one, a refugee from Guinea, who wished to remain anonymous. "We don't have the papers to work, but we need to make a living."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
news
Sport
Danny Cipriani of England breaks clear to score his second try
rugby
Life and Style
New research says leaving your desk can help you to avoid serious illness
health
Arts and Entertainment
tvSPOILER ALERT: Like a mash-up of 28 Days Later, Braveheart, The Killing and Lord of the Rings, this GoT episode was a belter
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Trainee

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Cloud ERP Solution Provide...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral