PARIS — French riot police battled Sunday with anti-gay marriage protesters who forced their way onto the world famous Champs Élysées.
The demonstration was a last-ditch attempt to stop a bill backed by France’s Socialist government that will allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt children.
The National Assembly, France’s lower house of parliament, approved what is known as the “marriage for all” legislation with a large majority last month.
The bill will face a final vote in the Senate, the upper house, on April 4. Both houses are dominated by French President François Hollande’s Socialist party and its allies.
Police claimed there were 300,000 demonstrators Sunday; anti-same-sex marriage activists insisted the number of protesters was closer to 1.4 million.
The demonstration started peacefully enough, but as it was coming to an end, around 100 youths attempted to break through police barriers onto the Champs Élysées, the famous Parisian avenue, where the crowds had been banned from marching.
Law enforcement officers grappled with the youths before firing tear gas into the crowd to force them back.
As more protesters swarmed forward, police were unable to stop them forging onto the Champs Élysées. “Hollande, resign,” they shouted before singing the French national anthem, “La Marseillaise.”
According to police, two people were arrested.
A statement passed out by protest organizers said the law is “anti-family” and will “completely overturn society by denying parenthood and natural filiation.”