A solemn event presided over by French President Francois Hollande to remember those who died in World War I turned into a shouting match Monday after protesters booed the unpopular leader.
To the anger of others who had come to commemorate the millions killed in the 1914-18 war, protesters shouted “Hollande resign” and “Socialist dictatorship” as the president was driven up the French capital’s famous Champs-Elysees avenue.
“You have no right to exploit November 11. You’re a disgrace for France!”, one onlooker yelled at the protesters during the Remembrance Day ceremony.
Scuffles broke out between protesters and security forces, and police said 73 people had been detained, some of whom were linked to far-right movements, including a grouping called the “French Spring” that opposes France’s gay marriage law.
Some of those shouting slogans against Hollande were wearing red bonnets, headwear that has come to symbolise a growing feeling of despondency over rising taxes and record unemployment in France.
The so-called “red bonnet” movement emerged last month in the hard-hit agricultural region of Brittany, where people took to the streets wearing the hats in reference to a famous 17th-century “Red Bonnet Revolt” against tax rises.
But Christian Troadec, a spokesman for the Breton movement, condemned the Paris protesters, saying they had “nothing to do with our movement”.
Undeterred, Hollande continued his procession along the avenue and laid a wreath of flowers in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, in memory of all the servicemen who died during the war.
The protest comes as the French leader’s popularity ratings hit record lows, with a poll by research firm Ipsos published Monday showing only 21 percent of the French approve of his policies, down from 24 percent in October.
French president Francois Hollande attends on November 11, 2013 in Oyonnax, central France, a ceremony commemorating the WW1 armistice
Later in the day, protesters once again heckled Hollande as he visited the town of Oyonnax in the east, this time to mark a brave rally staged by members of the French resistance on November 11, 1943 during World War II.
“It’s not the day (to do this), true, but the current policies are really disappointing, there are many promises that have not been kept, life is expensive and we end up in the red at the end of the month,” one protester told AFP.
Ceremonies commemorating Remembrance Day were also disrupted in the southeastern town of Chateaurenard, where the mayor and two other people were assaulted and stabbed, police said.
The injuries of the three victims are not life-threatening. According to an initial probe, the attacker may have had mental health problems.