At the end of a day of tense, but relatively peaceful anti-equal marriage protests, which saw tens of thousands take to the streets of Paris, riot police have clashed with hundreds of violent demonstrators.
Police estimated the number of protesters which turned out today at 150,000, however organisers of the Manif Pour Tous rally said a million turned up. This was not the first time organisers estimated a wildly different number from authorities.
Three branches of the protest converged on the Invalides esplanade, and unfurled a banner urging for the resignation of President Francois Hollande. By the evening, no violence had been officially reported.
Police later said, however, that once demonstrators began to disperse, around 500 violent protesters began throwing metal barriers, beer bottles and smoke bombs. Some also attacked journalists covering the event.
Tear gas was used by police and 96 were arrested at this demonstration, which was seen as a last ditch attempt to influence the French Government into reconsidering the bill, which has already signed into law allowing equal marriage and adoption.
On Saturday evening, 50 people were arrested, and a van carrying masks, banners and smoke bombs was seized by French police. Those arrested had chained themselves to a barrier in the middle of the Champs Elysees.
Frigide Barjot – real name Virginie Tellene – a born-again Catholic and reactionary comedian, brought together various Christian, conservative, and far-right groups together to rally against marriage equality earlier this year under the name Manif pour Tous (Demo for All).
Barjot has asserted that the Government should replace the equal marriage bill, which allows adoption for same-sex couples, with civil unions legislation, omitting the right to adopt.
Following months of, sometimes violent, protests, and a substantial rise in homophobic attacks, last Friday French President Hollande signed the law, making France the fourteenth country in the world to allow equal marriage.
Marriage equality opponents had hoped that challenging the bill before the Constitutional Council would scupper the bill after months of debate and protest.
Earlier this week, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was evacuated, after a former far-right activist committed suicide by shooting himself in the head, after writing a blog post slamming France’s recently passed equal marriage bill.