Agence France Presse — Tens of thousands of opponents of an airport project turned out in Nantes on Saturday for a protest which degenerated into violent clashes between several hundred of them and riot police.
Scores of shop windows were smashed by masked black-clad rioters hurling paving stones, bottles and flares while the police responded with volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets.
France's prime minister on Monday moved to heal tensions within the Socialist-Green government coalition which surfaced following the violent weekend protest over the airport he has championed.
The Socialist premier, Jean-Marc Ayrault, had on Sunday accused leaders of the Green EELV party of adopting an ambiguous stance towards clashes which devastated the center of the Atlantic port of Nantes on Saturday evening.
As a former mayor of Nantes, Ayrault has been a leading advocate of the project, which is being fiercely resisted by an army of eco warriors who have occupied parts of a site they regard as a valuable wetland environment and a haven for wildlife.