March to stop French gay marriage law

2013-04-21 17:31
(Photo: AFP)

(Photo: AFP)

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Paris - Thousands of opponents of a gay marriage bill thronged the streets of Paris under the watchful eye of police on Sunday in a last-ditch bid to block the legislation.

The demonstration came after days of sometimes vicious protests and several homophobic assaults in France, as parliament prepares to vote on - and likely pass - the bill on Tuesday, making France the 14th country to legalise same-sex marriage.

The recent unrest has sparked concern over Sunday's mass demonstration - particularly as supporters of the legislation are also poised to begin a rival protest in Paris.

Both organisers and security forces are on high alert.

Many parents and their children were part of the procession, holding French flags and pink and blue banners, the colour of the "Manif pour tous" (Demo for All) group - the spearhead of the movement against the bill, which would also legalise adoption by gay couples.

France's Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who was on site on Sunday to support police forces, warned organisers last week that far-right extremists had infiltrated the opposition movement and were intent on provoking unrest.

"We want a peaceful demonstration and we reject all groups that directly target homosexual people," said Frigide Barjot, spokesperson for the "Manif pour Tous" group.

She said she had called on "professional security services" to help out, adding that any excesses would be reported to specially designated people along the way, who would in turn report them to police.

And even before the start of the protest, one man carrying six canisters of teargas spotted by organisers was detained by police.

Tension over the imminent adoption of the law, which is going through a second reading in the lower house after already being approved in the French parliament's upper and lower houses, reached breaking point last week.

In Paris, opponents marched for three nights in a row from Wednesday to Friday, and a hard-core of activists, some wearing masks, clashed with police, who made more than 100 arrests during the week.

Opinion polls regularly show that while most French people support same-sex marriage, a majority oppose adoption by gay couples.

Read more on:    france  |  gay rights
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