'Black bloc' protesters spoil Paris climate march amid violent clashes

A protestor breaks a ledge to use the concrete as projectiles, during a climate change protest in the French capital Paris on Saturday. -AFP

PARIS - A climate march in Paris turned violent on Saturday when anarchist "black bloc" protesters joined and provoked clashes with police, prompting the rally's organizers to call for demonstrators to leave the event.

After first marching with a separate yellow vest protest, around 1,000 of the hardcore radical demonstrators infiltrated the march against climate change where more than 150 were arrested, authorities said.

Two bank buildings were damaged in the clashes, along with motor scooters, windows and other property. Some activists built makeshift roadblocks which they then torched.

Some 7,500 police were deployed for the two protests, and they moved in quickly to target the hardline elements and dismantle the barricades, made from burning bins and construction materials. By 6:00 pm (1600 GMT) Saturday, police said they had arrested 163 people.

The climate march organizers urged protesters to go home to avoid the clashes, which involved teargas and baton charges.

Around 15,200 took part in the climate march, according to the independent Occurence consultancy, while organizers claimed 50,000 and the police put the number at 16,000.

The yellow vest movement erupted 10 months ago and blindsided President Emmanuel Macron, whom protesters accuse of being out of touch with the needs of ordinary French people.

"We are assembling just to say that we can't make ends meet. (The protest) is not only against the president, it's against the system," said a female protester who did not give her name.

Others denounced what they said was overreach by security forces.

"This is hell. We're fewer than 100, and police charge. That's David versus Goliath," said demonstrator Pierre, his eyes red with teargas.

The weekly demonstrations around France -- Saturday was the 45th -- prompted Macron to loosen the state's purse strings to the tune of nearly 17 billion euros in wage boosts and tax cuts for low earners.

They tapered off over the summer, and it remains to be seen whether the movement will regain the momentum of last winter and early spring, when the protests often descended into violent clashes with security forces, especially in Paris.

Macron had on Friday called for "calm", saying that while "it's good that people express themselves", they should not disrupt the climate protest and cultural events also scheduled on Saturday.

The number of police deployed for Saturday's rallies are on a par with the peak of the yellow vest protests in December and March. -AFP