France: Prime Minister calls for calm amid tensions over same-sex marriage bill

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The French Prime Minister has called for calm as violent protests marred the start of the National Assembly’s fast tracked final debate on the marriage equality bill.

Tensions grew after it emerged last week that the National Assembly’s hearing of the marriage equality bill, which last week earned the approval of the Senate, would be brought forward to Wednesday this week. The final vote on the bill was due to take place in May, but is now scheduled for 23 April.

Frigide Barjot, the figurehead of anti-marriage equality group Manif pour Tous, said it was a sign the French President Francois Hollande “wants blood”, and promised “He will get it”.

On Wednesday thousands of protesters swarmed in Paris to voice their opposition to the bill, with some attacking cars and public property, and lashing out at police and journalists, reports France24.

11 people from the protest were detained for questioning, while 24 pro-equal marriage counter-protesters were arrested, according to police.

During the night four men were detained after they attacked a gay bar in Lille, injuring the manager and causing property damage.

The French Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, condemned protesters for taking their opposition too far, and urged right-wing politicians to “call for calm”, telling their supporters to use non-violent means of demonstrating their views.

“These protests have a right to take place, we are in a republic. But calls for violence, calls to hate, must be condemned,” he said.

The Interior Minister, Manuel Valls, condemned the violence of the protests which occurred “in spite of promises made by the organisers”.

“There is a radicalisation,” he added. “Small groups are seeking through violent acts to destabilise the Republic, some are doing Nazi gestures. It’s intolerable.”

Organisers claimed 8,000 people protested the marriage equality bill on Wednesday, while police estimated the number present at 2,400.

A mass protest in Paris is being arranged for 26 May if the marriage equality bill passes.

On Monday the outgoing Archbishop of Paris blamed violence in society on same-sex marriage in his final speech in the role.

“This is the way a violent society develops,” said Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois. “Society has lost its capacity of integration and especially its ability to blend differences in a common project.”

His anti-equality legacy looks set to be inherited by his replacement, Archbishop Georges Pontier, who urged French Catholics to oppose the legislation after assuming his role yesterday.