Notre Dame fire pledges inflame yellow vest protesters

Photo: AP French Yellow Vest protesters are marching anew to remind the government that rebuilding the fire-ravaged Notre Dame Cathedral isn't the only problem the nation needs to solve.

Yellow Vest protestors in Paris battled police during violent clashes Saturday - newly enraged at the more than billion dollars that have been pledged to rebuild fire-damaged Notre Dame Cathedral, overshadowing their anti-wealth cause. Black-hooded demonstrators set fire to trash cans, scooters and a car and pelted police with rocks to draw attention anew to their 23rd weekend of protest.

Riot police unleashed tear gas at the yellow vest protesters in central Paris. The French capital was the scene of chaos as police confronted protesters, who set off small fires. Video shows heavy black smoke in the air. Police also used water cannons to disperse the crowds.

Many protesters are frustrated that the effort to help Notre Dame has drawn more attention than their five-month-old Yellow Vest movement against wealth inequality. They were deeply saddened by the fire at a national monument. But many are angry at the $1 billion in Notre Dame donations that poured in from tycoons while their own demands remain largely unmet and they struggle to make ends meet.

Authorities deployed 5,000 police around Paris and warned protesters to keep away from Notre Dame and the banks of the Seine. More than 60,000 police were deployed across France to deal with the protests, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said. The Interior Ministry told Reuters that by early afternoon, 9,600 people were demonstrating across France, including 6,700 in Paris.

The Paris police headquarters said authorities detained 126 people by early afternoon and carried out spot checks of more than 11,000 people trying to enter the capital for Saturday's protests. There were protests in other cities including Bordeaux, Reuters reports. And police also fired tear gas in the city of Toulouse, where thousands were demonstrating.

Police fired tear gas amid tensions at a march of several thousand people from France's Finance Ministry toward the Place de la Republique in eastern Paris. Barricades were set ablaze at one spot, and branches set on fire elsewhere. Firefighters quickly responded to extinguish the flames.

In other parts of France authorities reported more Yellow Vest protests Saturday.

French President Emmanuel Macron plans to announce a new policy push in response to the Yellow Vest protest on next week, Reuters reported. He had intended to announce the new policies Monday but canceled the announcement because of the cathedral fire. In his New Year's address, Macron referred to the movement without naming it. He acknowledged anger against injustice but said hateful speech would not be tolerated, and called on people to respect each other. He also has pledged to increase the minimum wage and scrap new pension taxes to appease the protesters.

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