22 Sep 2019

Paris climate march marred by clashes between police and activists

11:21 am on 22 September 2019

RNZ joins more than 250 media organisations from around the world in the Covering Climate Now (CCN) initiative by committing to heighten climate coverage in the week leading up to the UN Climate Action Summit on 23 September 2019.

Climate protesters marched through Paris for a second day on Saturday (local time) in a rally that saw sporadic clashes between masked demonstrators and police who also broke up "yellow vest" groups trying to stage unauthorised gatherings in the capital.

A demonstrator clashes with riot policemen during the Climate Change protest, on September 21, 2019 in Paris.

Some demonstrators held an unauthorised march. Photo: AFP

The climate protest drew some 16,000 participants, according to the police, a day after several thousand young people had turned out in Paris, as in other cities worldwide, to demand government action over climate change.

Demonstrators carried signs with slogans such as "End oil now" and "End of the world" and displayed an effigy of President Emmanuel Macron wearing a crown marked "King of bla-bla".

Mr Macron, who will attend a United Nations climate conference next week in New York, was also targeted by a giant banner in English unfurled on a bridge on the river Seine. It read "Macron polluter of the earth", with the word "champion" crossed out.

Some demonstrators held an unauthorised march to Bastille square in the early evening.

A protester poses with a cut-out of the French President during a Climate Change protest in Paris on September 21, 2019. The placard alludes to some protesters being blinded in one eye in previous clashes with riot officials

A protester poses with a cut-out of the French President during the climate change protest in Paris. Photo: AFP

The largely peaceful climate rally was marked by brief confrontations between police and masked demonstrators.

Small groups wearing black clothing associated with the "black bloc" anarchist movement formed barricades, set fire to bins and bicycles, and threw paint over the front of a bank.

Similar skirmishes occurred later in the march with the prefecture again attributing violence to black blocs. Police responded with tear gas.

The authorities had deployed a massive police presence as they feared yellow-vest and black-bloc activists would take advantage of the climate change march and a separate protest over pension reform.

Some 7500 police were mobilised, several districts including the Champs-Elysees were made out-of-bounds for protests, and over 30 metro stations closed.

Firefighters look on as rubbish bins and other material burns during a climate change protest in Paris on September 21, 2019.

Rubbish bins burn in Paris. Photo: AFP

Police had made 163 arrests in Paris by late afternoon and earlier in the day pushed back around 100 protesters who gathered on the Champs-Elysees shopping avenue, the Paris police prefecture said.

There were further confrontations on the Champs-Elysees in the evening, with news channels showing clouds of tear gas and the fire brigade putting out a small fire.

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

Some of their protests have been marked by rioting, partly blamed on black blocs.

- Reuters

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