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Paris rocked with violence, demonstrations over gay marriage

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 27th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Paris has been hit with two straight days of riots. Thousands of protestors have hit the streets to protest against the introduction of gay marriage in France. Nearly 300 people have been arrested, with 231 of those charged with public order offences. The latest wave of violence began Sunday night, following a mass rally in the centre of the city which attracted around 150,000 people.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The worst clashes were between CRS riot police and hooded right-wing "ultras" around famous monuments including Les Invalides, where Napoleon Bonaparte is buried. "Traditional France has been threatened by these new measures and that's why we have taken to the streets," one protestor said. "The violence highlights the frustration we feel at having been betrayed by liberal politicians."

Hundreds threw rocks and smoke bombs at the police, who responded in kind with tear gas and baton charges. Both sides suffered serious injuries, with the worst fights breaking out on the grass esplanade opposite Les Invalides, and in surrounding streets. Two journalists were also seriously injured.

The area is next door to the French parliament, where President Francois Hollande's Socialist government introduced and then passed the gay marriage bill. France became the 14th country in the world to allow same sex unions.

The protests are strongly backed by the Roman Catholic Church and has become a chance for the French right to rally against the left.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls said some 100 known far-right protesters were among those arrested in the early hours of Monday. To control the waves of protests, 4,500 police officers were on duty in Paris on Sunday to deal with the huge crowds.

France's first gay wedding is due to take place on this week in Montpellier, in the south of the country.

In spite of the violent opposition, a survey published on Sunday showed 53 percent of French people support gay marriage and adoption.

The mass rallies have contributed to President Hollande's low popularity ratings. The still-new Hollande administration has been plagued by economic recession and unemployment has now hit more than 10 percent, but Hollande got some welcome news on Sunday, after his popularity inched up four points to 29 percent this month.

Although it failed to block gay marriage, the protest movement hopes its show of force will delay or stop further laws allowing assisted procreation and surrogate motherhood for gay couples.

Throwing gasoline on the fire to an already volatile situation, writer Dominique Venner, linked to a far-right French nationalist party, shot and killed himself inside Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral. He had called for "spectacular" action to protect France's identity, and was denouncing same-sex marriage law.

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