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France, Poland, Brazil gay-marriage opponents go on the march

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — French President François Hollande may have signed off on his country's contentious and hard-fought gay-marriage law, but opponents of the measure poured into Paris streets in the thousands to continue their protest over the weekend.

Varying estimates put the turnout at anywhere between 150,000 to 400,000 people. CBC and the UK's Independent say march organizers claim that more than a million showed up.

The protest, which several media outlets say started off peacefully, descended into violence, tear gas and arrests. Police indicate that a little less than 300 people were arrested, while a number of police, a journalist and a protester were among those injured in the clashes. 

Some media reports indicate that rightwing hardliners sparked the violence. The Local quotes Interior Minister Manuel Valls as saying, "these incidents were provoked by several hundred individuals, most from the extreme right and the (nationalist) Bloc Identitaire, who violently attacked police." The Independent report says "a hard core of about 200 hard-right youths started the fighting," while "hundreds of other, soberly dressed, middle-class protesters cheered them on."

The Independent says many of these youth were masked and pelted police with fireworks, stones and bottles. It also reported that members of a "far-right" group, Génération Identitaire, climbed onto the headquarters of the ruling Socialist party at one point during the day and rolled out a banner calling for Hollande's resignation.

In an interview with Russia Today, John Laughland, of the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation in Paris, criticized the government for its "mad" crackdown on the march, saying that it has been "seeking to delegitimize what is a massive demonstration and is overwhelmingly peaceful."  

"The fact that a few young people ended up throwing a couple of bottles at the police – not that I approve it – doesn’t mean, as the government would like to pretend, that somehow dangerous, sinister forces work behind these demonstrations," Laughland added. "As far as I know, although there were clashes and although there were a large number of arrests, I don’t believe that there was any serious breakdown in law and order."

Watch Telegraph video of police clashes with marchers.

Meanwhile, in Poland, about 10,000 protesters turned out on Sunday to march "in solidarity" with France's gay-marriage opponents and in defence of "the traditional family structure," Agence France-Presse (AFP) says.

AFP also reports that about 100,000 evangelical Christians went on a March for Jesus in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Sunday to protest a recent judicial ruling that essentially green-lights gay marriage nationwide.

On May 14, the National Council of Justice (NCJ), which oversees Brazil's legal system, ruled that government offices issuing marriage licences had no standing to reject gay couples, AFP reported then. 

Supreme Court Chief Justice Joaquim Barbosa noted that the Supreme Court recognized stable homosexual unions in 2011 and found that the constitution granted them the same rights as heterosexual couples.

"Are we going to require the approval of a new law by Congress to put into effect the ruling that already has been made by the Supreme Court? That would make no sense," Barbosa is quoted as saying. The earlier Supreme Court decision "is binding," he added.

Brazil's Social Christian Party has reportedly filed a legal challenge to the NCJ's May ruling.

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