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If all publicity is good publicity…

An internet company’s publicity stunt to distribute free money on the city’s streets over the weekend incited a near-riot when the event had to be scrapped after thousands of people showed up for the giveaway.

Video footage showed people brawling in the streets near the Eiffel Tower, turning over a car, knocking down street signs and hurtling rocks as police in riot gear moved in. Nine people were arrested, according to news reports.

Now, authorities are trying to determine what charges, if any, should face in light of the havoc that resulted from its plan to distribute small bills ranging from 5 to 500 euros. Law enforcement officials are considering charging the parent company, Rentabiliweb, for damages.

The company denies any responsibility saying in a press release that it had received prior police authorization to carry out the operation but the authorities changed their minds at the last minute and encouraged them to cancel the distribution. A lawyer for the company said either the police should have denied the company’s request in the first place or been prepared to handle the disorder.

Though an estimated 5,000 people turned out on Saturday, some people had criticized the effort as a lowbrow stunt that portrayed the country negatively. Either way, the company achieved its aim of getting free publicity. 

The company has said it will donate the funds to a charity organization that fights against poverty and exclusion.