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'Yellow Vests' clash with police in Paris after Bastille Day parade

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'Yellow Vests' clash with police in Paris after Bastille Day parade
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REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
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Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) protesters clashed with police on Paris' Champs-Elysees as the military parade celebrating France's Bastille Day drew to a close on Sunday afternoon (July 14).

French president Macron, who traditionally "reviewed the troops" during the military parade on the Champs-Elysees earlier on Sunday, was welcomed with boos from Gilets Jaunes among the audience.

The protesters were not wearing the infamous yellow vest, but they chanted "Gilets Jaunes! Things are going to blow up!" and "Macron, we're coming to get you!" as the president's chariot passed by. Some had cardboard signs as well as yellow scarves or balloons.

A small group of protesters was reported by the AFP as walking up and down the avenue, singing "We are here, even if Macron disagrees, for the honour of workers and for a better world, we are here."

When asked for comment by French TV about the Yellow Vests booing Macron, the prime minister Edouard Philippe said that he "had heard nothing".

Prominent Gilets Jaunes figures Maxime Nicolle, who relayed early calls to protest on social media when the Gilets Jaunes movements began last year, and Jerome Rodrigues, who lost an eye to police weapons during a protest earlier this year, were arrested and held in custody ahead of the Bastille Day celebrations for "illegal organisation of a protest", the Paris prosecutor's office said.

In total, 175 people were taken in for questioning ahead of or during the parade, the Paris prosecutor's office confirmed to AFP.

Rodrigues' lawyer Arié Alimi compared these arrests to that of "political opponents". "Not so long ago, the French government said it was shocked that Russia would arrest political opponents during protests, but now it is what they are doing", Alimi said in a live interview posted on Twitter. "We are extremely worried about this situation, which is getting worse."

Clashes between police and protesters started at the end of the parade, with some protesters trying to set up barricades using crowd control barriers to block traffic, while the police responded with tear gas.

Some protesters said they were surrounded by police in a street for hours, before being forced to board a bus and sent to an unknown destination.

One woman, who identified herself to Euronews as Maryon, filmed the location, which looked like an abandoned warehouse, in a Facebook Live.

Upon arrival in the warehouse, she told Euronews, protesters slowly went through mandatory ID checks and waited around two hours before being released.

She said she did not understand nor had been told why she had been arrested. She has come to Paris from Nantes to attend the parade with a sign reading "Where is Steve?", in reference to a young man who has been missing in Nantes since June 21, after a police operation on Music Day that led to several people falling into the Loire river.

"My only question was to ask where Steve is, as we have received no response from the authorities", she told Euronews. "I suppose we were arrested because our chants were disturbing the parade."

"Such violence in France is shocking and unacceptable," she added.

The Paris prosecutor's office could not be immediately reached for comment.

By mid-afternoon, the situation was tense on the Champs-Elysees. Videos of police visibly nervous were shared on social media. The Paris fire department was called after protesters set fire to dustbins.

The Paris police said around 5.45PM that "order had returned on the Champs Elysees".

It is the first time since 16 March that Gilets Jaunes have protested on Paris' Champs-Elysees. In March, protesters had burned down the luxury Parisian restaurant Fouquet's, which just reopened this week.

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