Activists and politicians have condemned protesters at an environmental protest in Paris who trashed a memorial to the victims of the 13 November terror attacks. Protesters reportedly hurled candles left in memory of the victims at riot police.
Since the attacks in which 130 people were killed by Islamic extremists, the Marianne statue in the Place de la Republique has become the focal point for those wishing to pay tribute to the dead. But on 29 November the square was the site of violent protests, as environmental protesters clashed with riot police on the eve of a key UN climate change conference.
In the wake of the clashes tributes and flowers left for the dead were photographed scattered across the square, after protesters used tribute candles as weapons.
"It's indecent, a desecration. The statue is the tomb of the victims of the attacks," Bertrand Boulet, a member of the 17 plus jamais group which maintains the memorial told The Local.
French police published pictures of objects allegedly hurled at them by protesters, including a hammer, rocks, and glass candle holders from the memorial. The protesters from far-left groups had defied a ban on public gatherings imposed in the wake of the Paris attacks.
BFMTV reports that some protesters formed a human chain round the statue to prevent the violent fringe desecrating the memorial.
"What right do you have to spit on the dead, spit on their memory," 19-year-old protester Lauren said. "This week I saw a father from the US to light a candle for his daughter killed in the Bataclan," she said.
French President Francois Hollande condemned the "scandalous" behaviour of the protesters.
"These disruptive elements have nothing to do with defenders of the environment," Hollande said at an EU-Turkey summit in Brussels, AFP reported.
"They are not there so that the [COP21] talks succeed but are there solely to create incidents," he said. "It is doubly regrettable, even scandalous that this happened at the Place de la Republique where flowers and candles have been left in memory of those who were killed by the terrorists' bullets" in the terror attacks, he said.
Paris Police said that 208 people were arrested in the protests.