French police arrest hundreds in Paris clash before climate talks

French authorities detained more than 200 people after a peaceful demonstration in Paris in favor of a global climate accord turned into a violent clash between riot police and masked protesters.

Television images on Sunday showed demonstrators throwing projectiles at police who charged crowds and dragged people away amid clouds of tear gas near the Place de la Republique, a traditional rallying place for marches. The riot came as global leaders descended on the French capital for United Nations- sponsored talks to limit global warming.


The demonstrators have "nothing to do with the environment supporters or with the climate summit. They were just there to create incidents," President Francois Hollande said in Brussels. He called the events "scandalous."

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve blamed a "violent minority" made up of dozens of masked individuals, whom he condemned for throwing at police candles that had been placed as a homage to victims of the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in the French capital.


Earlier in the day, thousands formed a human chain near the square, and called on the more than 140 world leaders who will be in Paris for the climate talks to reach a global agreement to lower carbon emissions. Parisians also laid thousands of pairs of shoes on the square to symbolize a planned pro-climate-deal march that was canceled.

Sunday's gatherings were in defiance of a French ban on demonstrations, part of a state of emergency and beefed-up security measures in place since the terrorist attacks in Paris killed 130 people. The earlier events were "peaceful and successful" and shouldn't be confused with others by groups who wanted to "provoke" police, Cazeneuve said.

"Those acts must be firmly condemned out of respect for the victims of the attacks," he said. By 7:15 p.m. local time, police had detained 208 people and were holding 174.

Small, organized groups of masked protesters were "looking" for confrontation, and threw bottles and other projectiles at police, Michel Cadot, the head of Paris police, said at a separate press conference.

The Interior Ministry canceled a series of public demonstrations planned during the COP21 climate talks. That meeting officially gets under way Monday and will attract about 40,000 delegates and heads of state, including U.S. President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. In response to the attacks and the sheer size of the climate meeting, taking place in Le Bourget near the capital, the government has closed some major roads around Paris until late Monday to help ease transport for the dignitaries.

The government also placed under effective house arrest over two dozen environmentalists deemed a risk to public order. Some environmental groups, including Greenpeace, have criticized the restrictions.

Those 26 people aren't "pacifist ecologists" but have instead participated in the past in violent demonstrations, Cazeneuve said Sunday, adding, "We will be firm."