PARIS (AP) — French yellow vest protesters set fires alongside a march route via Paris on Saturday to drive house their message to a authorities they see as out of contact with the issues of the poor: that rebuilding the fire-ravaged Notre Dame Cathedral isn’t the one downside France wants to unravel.
Just like the high-visibility vests the protesters put on, the scattered small fires in Paris gave the impression to be a collective plea to the federal government to “take a look at me — I need assistance too!”
Police fired water cannon and sprayed tear gasoline to attempt to management radical parts on the margins of the largely peaceable march, one among a number of actions round Paris and different French cities.
The protesters had been marking the 23rd straight weekend of yellow vest actions in opposition to financial inequality and President Emmanuel Macron’s authorities, which they see as favoring the rich and massive enterprise on the expense of extraordinary staff. Protesters see themselves as standing up for beleaguered French staff, college students and retirees who’ve been battered by excessive unemployment, excessive taxes and shrinking buying energy.
Related Press reporters noticed a automobile, motorbikes and barricades set ablaze across the Place de la Republique plaza in jap Paris. The odor of tear gasoline fired by police combined with the smoke, choking the air.
Paris firefighters — who struggled earlier this week to stop the 12th-century Notre Dame from collapsing — rapidly responded to extinguish the flames at Saturday’s protest.
One masked protester wearing black jumped on a Mercedes parked alongside the march route, smashing its back and front windshields.
Paris police headquarters mentioned authorities detained 137 individuals by early afternoon and carried out spot checks on greater than 14,000 individuals making an attempt to enter the capital for Saturday’s protests.
The tensions targeted on a march of a number of thousand folks that began on the Finance Ministry in jap Paris to demand decrease taxes on staff and retirees and better taxes on the wealthy.
One other group of about 200 individuals tried to march to the president’s Elysee Palace in central Paris, however riot police blocked them on the neo-classical Madeleine Church.
One more group tried to reveal yellow vest mourning over the Notre Dame blaze whereas additionally maintaining the stress on Macron. They needed to march to Notre Dame itself, however had been banned by police, who arrange a big safety perimeter across the space.
One protester carried an enormous picket cross resembling these carried in Good Friday processions as he walked on a close-by Paris embankment.
Many protesters had been deeply saddened by the fireplace at a nationwide monument. However on the identical time they’re offended on the $1 billion in donations for Notre Dame renovations that poured in from French tycoons whereas their very own financial calls for stay largely unmet and so they battle to make ends meet.
“I feel what occurred at Notre Dame is a superb tragedy however people ought to be extra essential than stones. And if people had a bit of bit extra money, they too might assist finance the reconstruction work at Notre Dame. I discover this disgusting,” mentioned protester Jose Fraile.
Some 60,000 cops had been mobilized for Saturday’s protests throughout France. The motion is basically peaceable however extremists have attacked treasured monuments, outlets and banks and clashed with police.
The heavy police presence meant subway stations and roads round Paris had been closed Saturday, thwarting vacationers making an attempt to benefit from the French capital on a heat spring day.
“Paris could be very tough proper now,” mentioned Paul Harlow, of Kansas Metropolis, Missouri, as he seemed sadly on the broken Notre Dame.
He and his spouse Susan had been in Paris just for a number of days and didn’t make it in time to see the cathedral. On Saturday, their efforts to go to museums had been derailed by closed subways and barricaded roads.
“I don’t assume we’ll be again,” he mentioned.
Different guests confirmed solidarity with the yellow vest trigger.
“I’m not all in favour of becoming a member of them, however I can perceive what they’re offended about,” mentioned Antonio Costes, a retiree from the Paris suburb of Montreuil who got here Saturday to see the harm to Notre Dame. “There’s quite a lot of injustice.”
Macron had been scheduled to put out his responses to yellow vest issues on Monday night time — however canceled the speech as a result of the Notre Dame fireplace broke out. He’s now anticipated to take action subsequent Thursday.
Some yellow vest critics accuse Macron of making an attempt to use the fireplace for political achieve. One protester carried an indication focusing on Macron that learn: “Pyromaniac – we’re going to carbonize you.”
One other large signal learn: “Victor Hugo thanks all of the beneficiant donors prepared to save lots of Notre Dame and proposes that they do the identical factor with Les Miserables,” referring to the famed writer’s novels in regards to the cathedral and the struggles of France’s poor.
Some distinguished yellow vest figures who had stopped protesting mentioned they had been returning to the streets Saturday out of a good larger sense of being neglected because the Notre Dame tragedy.
Anti-rich messages have flourished on social media in latest days as yellow vest protesters exhorted rich donors to be extra beneficiant with France’s working class.
Chris den Hond, Francisco Seco and Deborah Gouffran in Paris contributed to this report.
Learn and watch all AP protection of the Notre Dame fireplace at https://apnews.com/NotreDameCathedral