Police in Paris have fired tear gas and used water cannon against protesters on the Champs Elysées, in the center of the French capital.
The “yellow vest” protests, which began as a campaign against rising gas prices, have morphed into a wider demonstration against the government of President Emmanuel Macron in recent weeks.
Police say they have mobilized 3,000 officers in Paris to contain the 8,000 protesters. A security perimeter has been set up in the city center, with government buildings protected. Three people have been arrested so far.
At a news conference on Saturday, French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner blamed the clashes on far-right extemists infiltrating the demonstrations.
“Today, the far right has mobilised,” he told reporters. “The security forces perfectly anticipated this situation.”
Far-right political leader Marine Le Pen rejected the accusations, describing it as a “pathetic and dishonest” form of “political manipulation” by the government.
Earlier Castaner said of the protesters: “Their freedom of expression will be guaranteed, but it must not be exercised to the detriment of security, public order and the right of everybody to come and go. There is no liberty without public order.”
Last weekend a protester was accidentally run over and killed by a car, and more than 200 people were injured during a demonstration in eastern France.