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Thousands stage 'Day of Anger' protest against French president

27 january 2014, 12:19
0
Several thousand people marched through Paris on Sunday in a "Day of Anger" against embattled President Francois Hollande which ended in clashes between police and protesters, AFP reports.

Security forces used tear gas to disperse several hundred youths who lobbed police with bottles, fireworks, iron bars and dustbins.

Police said at least 150 people had been arrested after the clashes, during which 19 officers were injured, one of these "potentially seriously", according to one police source.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls condemned the violence "by individuals, varied groups from the extreme and ultra-right, whose only goal is to create unrest".

The march organised by a motley group of some 50 small and mainly right-wing organisations, however failed to attract bigger anti-Hollande movements.

Organisers claimed a turnout of some 120,000 people, however police estimated there were 17,000 people at the protest, held under pouring rain.

The demonstrators railed against a slew of policies under Hollande -- the most unpopular French president of modern times -- such as last year's law allowing gay marriage.

Some called for France's withdrawal from the European Union, while others urged the respect of freedom of speech, a reference to the government's recent decision to ban a show by controversial comic Dieudonne, whose sketches have been deemed anti-Semitic.

A Jewish students union the UEJF condemned "anti-Semitic slogans and Nazi salutes" by some protesters.

"This 'Day of Anger' has turned into a day of hate," said its president Sacha Reingewirtz.

Many in the crowd complained about Hollande's tangled love life a day after the president announced his split with his partner Valerie Trierweiler following an affair with a younger actress.

"There are enough scandals about the president, he is bringing dishonour to France," a 60-year-old woman who only identified herself as Marion, told AFP.

"You are here to say you are fed up," an organiser told the crowd, adding that France's leaders "are more preoccupied with their affairs ...than unemployment."

France, the eurozone's second largest economy, is battling huge levels of unemployment. Hollande recently announced plans for 50 billion euros ($68 billion) in spending cuts between 2015 and 2017 to revive the economy.

Several parties and organisations such as the far-right National Front did not take part in the protest.

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