Anti-gay marriage protesters return to French streets
Eric Feferberg (AFP)
Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Paris on Sunday to demonstrate against gay marriage, calling for candidates in France's presidential election to support "traditional family values".
The march was briefly interrupted by six topless feminist protesters from the Femen group who were quickly surrounded by demonstrators before police intervened.
The "Manif Pour Tous" (Protest for Everyone) campaign has been re-activated two years after its last sizeable demonstration.
Protesters held signs with slogans such "United for the family" as they made their way towards the Eiffel Tower, many of them waving French tricolore flags or banners in the movement's trademark pink and blue.
Police said up to 24,000 people took part, while organizers put the number far higher at 200,000.
The target of their anger is the 2013 law legalizing same-sex marriage introduced by Christiane Taubira, the justice minister at the time.
One protester attending the march, 72-year-old retired engineer Michel Delaune, said: "I am against gay marriage and against the crappy leaders who oppose the power of the people."
A 29-year-old man who identified himself as Guy said he wanted a "return to the principles of Christian civilization in terms of family, institutions and work."
Around a hundred gay rights activists mounted a counter-demonstration to "respond to the hate propagated by Manif Pour Tous", with same-sex couples kissing in defiance at the city's central Place de la Republique.
The anti-gay march, which took place under high security, passed off peacefully apart from a brief confrontation between demonstrators and a gaggle of around 20 activists from an anti-fascist movement.
In total 13 people were arrested, including the six Femen protesters.
Three years ago, Manif Pour Tous mounted a vigorous campaign against same-sex marriage -- at one point claiming to have brought 1.4 million on the streets of Paris.
But President Francois Hollande defied the protests and in 2013 France legalized gay marriage.
The movement faded away, but its leader Ludovine de la Rochere said it now had "a bright future" because Hollande's Socialist government had "destabilised families".
But none of the leading candidates for the right-wing nomination for next year's presidential election have said they have any intention of repealing same-sex unions if they are elected.
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