Frustrated by a ban on demonstrations during international climate talks, a few hundred protesters clashed with police Sunday in the Place de la Republique in Paris.
A march through central Paris was called off because of the state of emergency declared after the terrorist attacks Nov. 13.
Instead, thousands of people formed a human chain along the intended route and lined up shoes in the square to represent those who could not march.
Most dispersed peacefully around midday. But others appeared intent on defying the restrictions, trying to force their way through police lines, officials said. Some threw shoes and bottles at police, along with candles that had been left in the square in memory of the 130 people killed in the terrorist attacks.
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Police fired tear gas at the protesters and moved in to take control of the square. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said more than 200 people were arrested at the square and 174 of them placed into custody. He blamed the violence on a “small minority” who were bent on making trouble.
There were no reports of serious injuries on either side.
The United Nations climate conference has presented a major security challenge for French authorities. Tens of thousands of people, including nearly 150 heads of state and government, are expected to participate in the talks that open Monday.
Thousands of armed police and soldiers have been deployed and miles of roads blocked off so convoys can move quickly between city airports and the conference venue at Le Bourget, on the northern edge of Paris.
Leaders of a number of environmental groups have said that they understand the need for stepped-up security after the attacks. But some have questioned why their demonstrations are banned when Christmas markets and other gatherings are allowed to proceed.
“All this makes us think that the state of emergency is being used as a way to shut us up,” said Juliette Rousseau, who coordinates a coalition of environmental and social justice groups known as Climat 21.