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Mayor demands ban on demos on Champs-Elysees after July 14 violence

Scenes of unrest on the margins of Bastille Day ceremonies on the Champs-Elysees Avenue in Paris, 14 July 2019.
Scenes of unrest on the margins of Bastille Day ceremonies on the Champs-Elysees Avenue in Paris, 14 July 2019. Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

Violence on the French capital’s emblematic Champs-Elysees Avenue throughout the national holiday on Sunday has prompted the mayor of the surrounding district to call for a new ban on demonstrations there.

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Following a national holiday marred by incidents of unrest and violence on the French capital’s emblematic Champs-Elysees Avenue, Jeanne d’Hauteserre, mayor of the surrounding 8th arrondissement, told French media enough was enough.

“Shopkeepers are forming an association to file a complaint against the state for failing to protect their businesses,” d’Hauteserre told French television BFM-TV.

“And I am calling for a ban of any public demonstrations in the 8th arrondissement, because we’ve had as much as we can take.”

The famous avenue has been a flashpoint of protests and occasional rioting from the Yellow Vest movement since it began in autumn 2018.

July 14 Paris protests

Paris police said it would not authorise any demonstrations around the avenue following a particularly destructive Yellow Vest protest in March that saw several shops and restaurants being pillaged.

Sunday’s incidents marked the first on the avenue since then.

Incidents throughout the day

The first incidents came during the annual Bastille Day military parade, when protesters booed President Emmanuel Macron.

Organisers of the Yellow Vest movement were present, though they were not wearing the reflective vests, and security forces often had difficulty telling them apart from tourists and other onlookers.

When the avenue reopened following the parade in the afternoon, protesters dressed in black knocked over metal barriers that had been used to cordon off spectators and set garbage cans afire. Police pursued demonstrators who hid in adjacent streets.

Paris police chief Didier Lallement said at the end of the afternoon that some 200 rioters had taken part in events that saw some shop windows and a bus shelter destroyed.

“We repelled them,” he said. “Destructions were minimised, there was no pillaging.”

But in d’Hauteserre’s view, the security forces were not sufficiently prepared.

“There was a lack of anticipation,” said d’Hauteserre. “There were some police officers, but not enough to prevent them [protesters] from spreading chaos.

“Some shopkeepers called me, completely distraught. Terraces were open, customers were evacuated and staff were sheltered.”

In total, 180 people were arrested, of whom 38 were taken into custody.

Algeria football celebrations

In the evening, new crows formed on the avenue, this time supporters of the Algeria national football team, who were facing Nigeria in a semi-final match of the Africa Cup of Nations tournament.

Unrest on the margins of the celebrations of the team’s win led to additional vandalism of the avenue’s shops and other businesses.

Police made 50 additional arrests and issued 202 disciplinary actions for dangerous driving.

“We understand the celebration, the joy, but there’s a limit to what’s acceptable,” d’Hauteserre said, adding she feared a repeat of the incidents during the final of the tournament on Friday.

 

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