Thousands watch Bastille Day Military Parade at Champs Elysées
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Fighter jets streak over Paris during national holiday’s major public event. The theme of this year's march was "fraternity in arms".
Thousands gathered along the Champs Elysées avenue on Saturday to watch the annual military parade, which involved 4,290 soldiers, 220 vehicles, 250 horses, 64 jets and 30 helicopters.
In keeping with tradition, the French president invites a country to join in the huge parade down the famous avenue each year on July 14. Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Taro Kono were guests of honour this year, underscoring Emmanuel Macrons attempt to bolster defence ties with partners in the Asia-Pacific region. The parade also celebrated 160 years of diplomatic ties between France and Japan. Last year, it was US Donald President who Trump enjoyed a front seat at the military display.
Ahead of Saturday’s parade, Macron signed a new military budget, aimed at lifting defence spending to 2 percent of gross domestic product. The rise comes after a contentious NATO summit in which President Donald Trump criticised allies for not spending enough on defence. France's military chief Francois Lecointre who was appointed by Macron last year after his predecessor resigned following a spat over defence spending cuts, said the July 14 parade was a "demonstration of controlled force".
Bastille Day commemorates the storming of the Bastille Prison in 1789 during the opening stages of the French Revolution. The French were becoming increasingly angry over food shortages and the high taxes needed to fund King Louis XVI’s debt. People began rioting in the capital, whipped into a fury by revolutionary leaders. Revolutionaries backed by mutinous troops stormed the Bastille on July 14 of that year, in the process looting the fortress of ammunition and freeing several prisoners. The political turmoil culminated in the assassination of King Louis XVI, his wife Marie Antoinette, and thousands of others. The anniversary became a national day in 1880.