French anti-gay marriage protesters clash with police in Paris
Hundreds of thousands of people descend on Champs Elysées in last-ditch bid to stop ‘marriage for everyone’ bill
Riot police fought back crowds who pushed their way on to the Champs Elysées in Paris as part of a protest against a draft law allowing same-sex couples to marry and adopt children.
Hundreds of thousands of people – conservative activists, children, retirees, priests, many bussed in from the French provinces – converged on the capital on Sunday in a last-ditch attempt to stop the bill.
The lower house of France’s parliament approved the “marriage for everyone” bill last month with a large majority, and it now faces a vote in the senate next month. Both houses are dominated by President François Hollande’s Socialist party and its allies.
Sustained protests led by opposition conservatives have eroded support for the draft law in recent months, and organisers hope the march will weigh on the senate debate.
The first few hours of the protest were peaceful. But as it was meant to be winding down, about 100 youths tried to push past police barricades on to the Champs Elysées.
Police officers wrangled with the youths, firing teargas to force them back. Gaining momentum, more and more protesters took side streets to reach the avenue, blocking a key intersection on the route to the president’s Elysée Palace.
Police fired more teargas but were unable to block the crowds from spilling on to the road. “Hollande, resignation!” the protesters chanted, before breaking into the French anthem, La Marseillaise.
An official with the Paris police headquarters said two people were arrested and no injuries were reported. The official estimated that 300,000 people took part in the march, slightly fewer than in a similar march in January. Organisers estimated more than 1.2 million people took part, more than in the January protest.
Polls indicate a shrinking majority of French voters back gay marriage but are less enthusiastic about adoption by same-sex couples.
Frigide Barjot, the stage name of an activist who has led protests against the bill, said the anti-gay marriage movement was not a lost cause. “It’s the second round, sir. It’s not the last battle.”