French police have confirmed over 400,000 people in attendance at the mass anti-gay marriage protest held in Paris this weekend. The event, which converged at Les Invalides on Sunday, was regarded by many protestors as a last-ditch effort to combat a new law legalizing same-sex marriage.
The bill, signed into law by President Francois Hollande, made France the 14th country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. Though it was officially adopted last week, France’s first gay wedding is set to take place this Wednesday.
Over 4,500 riot police were dispatched to handle the increasingly unruly crowds. Countless arrests were made, most often in connection with illegal teargas canisters and fireworks being used as weapons.
The Independent reports:
About 200 young people, many of them masked, pelted police lines with bottles, stones, fireworks and flares. The crowd – led bizarrely at one stage by a lone bagpiper – chased and beat up TV crews and press photographers. Police and gendarmes responded with tear gas and baton charges.
There were surreal battle scenes on the Esplanade des Invalides beside the foreign ministry as 200 gendarmes in riot gear formed into defensive squares to beat off attacks from running bands of protesters. Although a hard core of about 200 hard-right youths started the fighting, many hundreds of other, soberly dressed, middle-class protesters cheered them on.
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayraul warned politicians in favor of the mass demonstration, reminding them of “a heavy responsibility” taken by “sparking tension and radicalisation.”
Today, Paris police are tasked with cleanup efforts and restoring normalcy in the town center. France’s first same-sex marriage is still scheduled for this Wednesday.