Paris police use tear gas amid an array of anti-government protests
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Paris police used tear gas Saturday to disperse anti-government demonstrators amid an array of protests in the French capital – including rallies by Yellow Vests, environmental activists and a far-left trade union.
Peaceful participants marched in the south of Paris to demand urgent action from the government and corporations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save the burning Amazon rainforest and stop the Arctic from melting.
The atmosphere grew tense when dozens of people dressed in black mixed into the crowd broke a bank window and set fire to a makeshift barricade in the street. Police fired tear gas, as they had earlier in the day at another demonstration.
Officers dispersed small crowds of anti-government demonstrators who hoped to revive France's Yellow Vest movement, which started last year to protest perceived economic injustice and French President Emmanuel Macron's government.
Police used tear gas on and around the Champs-Élysées avenue, Saint-Lazare train station and Place de la Madeleine, areas where officials had banned protests this weekend. Most demonstrators didn't wear the motorist safety vests that gave the movement its name.
In response to these clashes, the organisers of the climate rally told protesters to call it quits.
"Take no risks and leave the march for the climate. The conditions for a non-violent march are not in place," Greenpeace, a co-organiser of the event, said on Twitter.
Another co-organiser, Youth for Climate, also told demonstrators to go home.
More than a hundred arrested
Authorities deployed more than 7,000 officers and banned protests in a large central area including the presidential palace, government and parliament buildings, the Champs-Élysées, the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral.
Paris police said at least 163 people had been arrested as of Saturday afternoon, and nearly 400 received 135-euro ($149) fines for demonstrating in a banned area.
France's annual heritage weekend, a very popular event with many cultural sites open to the public, is also taking place.
Parisians and tourists were queuing to visit landmark and government buildings, including the presidential palace and Macron's office. The public could only access the Élysée after having pre-registered and passing security checks.
Some other monuments, including the Arc de Triomphe that suffered damage during a yellow vest protest in December, were closed to the public.
The Yellow Vest movement that emerged 10 months ago petered out over France's long summer holiday, after weekly protests that led to often-violent clashes with police in Paris and other cities.
Macron made multiple concessions to the movement, including a 10 billion-euro package of measures to boost purchasing power. But anger is now mounting again over his plans to overhaul France's costly, convoluted pension system.
Climate activists are demonstrating Saturday afternoon in Paris to demand more action from the government and companies to reduce emissions and save the burning Amazon rainforest and the melting Arctic.
The hard-left Workers Force union held a separate march against the retirement reform, amid concerns it will require people to work longer and reduce pensions.
(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)
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