Violence erupts in Paris as police clash with anarchists who hijacked climate protest

More than 160 people arrested as officers fire tear gas on activists

Chris Baynes
Saturday 21 September 2019 21:32 BST
Firefighters extinguish a barricade during a protest over climate change in Paris
Firefighters extinguish a barricade during a protest over climate change in Paris (REUTERS)

French police fired tear gas and made more than 160 arrests as anarchists hijacked a climate march on a day of protests in Paris.

Anti-government “yellow vest” demonstrators took to the streets in an attempt to revive their movement, while “black bloc” anarchists smashed shop windows and set fire to bins after infiltrating the environmental rally on Saturday.

About 7,500 police officers had been deployed to the streets of France’s capital over fears the groups would seek to take advantage of authorised climate demonstration and a separate trade union protest taking place elsewhere in the city.

Several districts including the Champs-Elysees, where previous yellow vest demonstrations have taken place, were made out-of-bounds for protests. More than 30 metro stations were closed.

In the morning, officers dispersed small crowds of yellow vest activists who tried to gather in restricted areas in central Paris. Most of the demonstrators, some of whom later joined the climate protest, reportedly did not wear their usual fluorescent jackets to avoid being noticed.

Later, masked anarchists in black clothing joined the climate march and became embroiled in sporadic skirmishes with police. They broke windows at a bank and several shops, and set fire to a makeshift barricade.

Officers in full anti-riot gear fired tear gas on the group, prompting some families who had been taking part in the environmental rally to flee.

Police said at least 163 people had been arrested as of Saturday afternoon, and nearly 400 received €135 (£120) fines for demonstrating in a banned area.

The violence tarnished an otherwise peaceful march that brought thousands of people, onto the streets a day after marches in Paris and other cities worldwide to demand government action to tackle the climate crisis.

Demonstrators carried slogans like "End oil now" and "End of the world" while some held effigies, including one of president Emmanuel Macron wearing a crown marked "King of bla-bla".

The yellow vests, named after motorists' high-visibility jackets, were holding a 45th consecutive Saturday of action. Their movement emerged late last year, triggered by fuel tax rises and swelling into a revolt against Mr Macron's government.

Some of their protests have been marked by rioting, partly blamed on the black bloc, but the police have also been accused of reacting with excessive force.

A separate march was called by the FO trade union on Saturday to contest the government's planned pensions reforms. The proposed changes prompted a strike by metro workers on 13 Sept, shutting most of the underground network.

Additional reporting by agencies

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in