Fairground workers riot in French city of Le Mans

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Fairground workers face off with police in Le Mans, 25 March Image copyright AFP
Image caption Masked fairground workers faced off with police

Clashes have erupted at a protest by fairground workers in the French city of Le Mans, who are demanding the right to set up stall in the town centre.

Police pushed back hundreds of demonstrators as rioters targeted the city hall, where staff were evacuated. There are reports of injuries.

Rioters pushed a burning caravan at police who fired rubber pellet grenades into the crowd, French media say.

At one point protesters occupied the city’s railway station.

The violence broke out on the fourth day of protests against a decision by the mayor, Stéphane Le Foll, to move their fairground away from the city centre. Fairground workers accuse the city authorities of discrimination.

Monday’s riots in Le Mans echo violent street protests at the cost of living which have gripped French cities every Saturday since mid-November – the “yellow vest” movement.

How bad did the violence get?

Police acted to drive back between 300 and 500 protesters in the north-western city, AFP news agency reports.

The trouble began around 06:00 (05:00 GMT) when protesters set fire to containers and tyres. They also blocked off a road to a major shopping centre.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption A burning caravan was reportedly pushed towards police

A crowd approached the police guarding the mayor’s office, with masked rioters carrying baseball bats among them. Some protesters wore gas masks and protected themselves with improvised shields.

Police fired rubber pellet guns and at least one protester could be seen using a catapult.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The railway station was blocked by protesters

Around 11:00, protesters invaded the railway station for the second time since Friday, carrying banners which read “It’s a party” and “I don’t want to lose my life earning my living”.

Who are the fairground workers?

Known in French as forains, they travel from town to town providing street entertainment such as fairs and circuses, and are recognised as a profession, with trade union representation.

Some 35,000 families are said to be involved in the business across France.

France Interior Minister condemned Monday’s violence, saying nothing could justify it.

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