PARIS, March 24. /TASS/. A total of 233 people were detained on the 19th day of the weekly Yellow Vests protests in France, 107 people were fined, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said.
"All previously approved manifestations took place in normal atmosphere," he said, adding that 40,500 people took to the streets in the country, including 5,000 in Paris.
At the same time, organizers of the protest announced 127,212 people took part in the rallies.
Saturday’s protests in the French capital took place outside the traditional venue, the Champs Elysees, because any rallying was prohibited there and punishable with a huge fine. This time, protesters marched from the Denfert-Rochereau square in the south to the Sacre Coeur Basilica at the summit of the city’s highest point, butte Montmartre. The march began at 13:00 local time (15:00 Moscow time) and lasted several hours.
Small groups of protesters, scattered around the city, clashed with police in several areas, and tear gas was used against them. Activists responded by throwing bottles and setting garbage bins on fire.
A series of minor clashes took place at the Place de la Republique square, during which one of officers suffered a heart attack. He received first aid on site and was taken to hospital in critical condition.
According to Castaner, law enforcement officers used the tactics of "mobility" and "prompt response" during Saturday’s protest. They were quick in breaking up crowds and detaining protestors, and this produced a positive result, he said.
Special attention was paid to protests in southern France, where President Emmanuel Macron is to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday near Nice. However, despite the ban on protests in the entire city, dozens of activists took to the streets. Small groups were seen on city streets until police used tear gas near Boulevard Francois Grosso on Saturday evening.
Tear gas was also used in the city of Montpellier, where about 4,500 people gathered for the protest.
Rallies in other cities, such as Bordeaux, Pau, Lille and Toulouse, were largely peaceful.
Since mid-November, France has been gripped by street riots over skyrocketing fuel prices, growing taxes and soaring living costs. The demonstrations spiraled into clashes with the police and a protest against the country’s leadership, whom protestors accuse of ineffective government and taking insufficient measures to fight poverty. Despite certain concessions made by the authorities, like cut taxes and wage hikes, the Yellow Vests are pledging to carry on these rallies.
On March 16, the 18th wave of Yellow Vest protests engulfed France. The largest riots and clashes occurred in Paris on that day. Their epicenter was the Avenue des Champs-Elysees, where aggressive demonstrators crashed and set on fire dozens of shops, cafes and newspaper stands.