French police fired tear gas to disperse protesters from Paris’s Champs Elysees avenue on Sunday, a few hours after President Emmanuel Macron had reviewed the traditional Bastille Day military parade alongside other European leaders.
The famous boulevard was reopened to traffic as soon as the parade finished, but a few hundred protesters from the grassroots ‘yellow vests’ movement tried to occupy it.
Macron and his guests had already left for the Elysees presidential palace for lunch.
France’s BFM television showed images of police firing tear gas to disperse the protesters, some hooded and trying to block the road with metal barricades, dustbins and other debris.
Several loud bangs could be heard. Protesters hurled objects at the police, booed and set bins on fire. Police drove some of the demonstrators to adjacent streets where they regrouped and set up new barricades, drawing more tear gas fire.
The Police Prefecture said on Twitter it had ordered the protesters to leave the area, or be forceably removed.
The number of ‘yellow vest’ protesters has dwindled to a few hundred over the past weeks from a high of around 300,000 nationwide in November when demonstrations started against fuel price hikes and later morphed into a general discontent against Macron’s policies and government.
Paris authorities had banned all ‘yellow vest’ demonstrations near the parade and so few of the protesters wore the high-visibility jackets that give their movement its name.
But several groups linked to the grassroots movement had called for gatherings around the Champs Elysees on Bastille Day, a national holiday in France. And earlier a French police source and a court source said 152 protesters – whom they linked to the ‘yellow vest’ movement – had been detained near the Champs Elysees as they tried to stage a protest.