A peaceful climate march in Paris has been halted after it was infiltrated by other protest groups. Groups of anarchist demonstrators joined in, breaking windows and setting fire to street barricades.
Families abandoned the march as violent clashes prompted French police, who have previously been accused of excessive violence, to fire tear gas and make over 100 arrests. A huge security operation involved 7,000 police officers.
The climate change march and a protest against pension reform were both authorised, while other demonstrations – including one by the ‘yellow vest’ anti-government group – went ahead illegally.
Much of the violence and vandalism was attributed to the so-called black bloc anarchist group, who wore black scarves, sunglasses and hoods to cover their faces.
The gilets jaunes (yellow vest) movement was sparked ten months ago by a hike in fuel prices and evolved into weekly anti-government protests that continued well into the spring.
Most of those protesting on Saturday did not wear the trademark fluorescent jackets, so they could avoid standing out. As the violence worsened, police used tear gas to disperse groups of protesters.
A video posted on Twitter shows climate change protesters covering their mouths as tear gas from further afield was carried to them by the wind.
Greenpeace told climate change protesters to abandon the march as conditions were not appropriate for a non-violent protest.
One of Saturday’s protesters told French media outlet Le Monde that they continued to protest because of “injustice” but said they were worried about the “bad image” of the yellow vests.
“I am not a thug,” the protester insisted.
The yellow vest protests, which lost momentum over the summer, were often marred by violence, some of which was blamed on the black blocs.
The protests earlier this year prompted Mr Macron to introduce reforms including tax cuts and a more decentralised government.
Saturday’s protests interfered with France’s annual Heritage Day, when well-known sites open their doors to the public.
On Friday, President Macron said it was good that that people could express themselves but asked that the protests proceeded in a “calm” manner.
He has not yet commented on Saturday’s events.