France: Blame game follows the battle of Champs-Elysées

25/03/2013
Submitted by ILGA-Europe

Reposted from The Local: http://www.thelocal.fr/page/view/recriminations-follow-the-battle-of-the-champs-elysee#.UVAyL1eTVLo

Angry recriminations flew back and forth on Monday as organizers of the anti-gay marriage march and the forces of order blamed each other for the violence which flared during Sunday's demo. A total of 98 people were arrested during scuffles, which left 30 officers injured.

Sunday's demos saw clashes break out between protesters and riot police when a minority of marchers tried to break through a cordon to get onto the Champs-Elysées, despite being banned from demonstrating on the famous avenue.

The skirmishes have provoked a furious row between organizers of the march, backed by opposition parties, and on the other side, the government, with accusations flying back and forth over who was to blame for the trouble.

Christine Boutin, leader of the Christian Democrats party has called on Interior Minister Manuel Valls to resign after she was caught up in a melee, which saw officers use tear gas to disperse protestors. Boutin was pictured lying on the road, with protesters trying to help her to her feet.

"The government is responsible," Boutin said.

An angry Lionel Tardy, UMP deputy for the Haute Savoie said: "Why fire tear gas to protect 100 metres of the Champs Elysée?"

Marchers were also furious at the way police managed the protest.

"It's shameful to treat us with such brutality," a 16-year-old demonstrator named Marie, Le Parisien.

Valls however, has hit back, criticizing the organizers of the “Manif pour Tous” march for losing control of the marchers.

“Some groups tried to break through the cordons. The actions of the police helped to avoid more serious incidents because some protesters had the desire to go into battle.

“It was a difficult event to manage but the organizers were clearly out of the depth.”

The battle of the Champs-Elysées saw almost 100 protesters arrested with six held in custody overnight. Around 30 police officers were also left slightly injured with sources telling TF1 that some right-wing activists were seen throwing missiles including smoke bombs at the police.

As well as a row over the police’s use of force, Monday morning headlines in the French media were dominated by the usual dispute over turn-out for the march.

Protestors are claiming 1.4 million marchers took to the streets but the police say the number was more like 300,000 – a discrepancy of 1.1 million. Final figures are due to be released later this week, but that is unlikely to put an end to the row.

France’s parliament has already passed a bill legalizing gay-marriage and adoption for same-sex couples, but the Senate is set to begin discussing the legislation on April 4th.


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