Anger over Notre-Dame donations as yellow vest protests turn violent

Protesters have voiced frustration that the effort to save Notre-Dame Cathedral is overshadowing the yellow vest movement's demands, as protests in the French capital turned violent.

Although many protesters are devastated by the fire at the national monument, they are frustrated that $1bn (£770m) in donations have poured in from tycoons while their own demands remain largely unmet and they struggle to make ends meet.

At least 126 people have been arrested in Paris on the 23rd week of the yellow vest protests as violence erupted on the city's streets.

Flares were thrown and dozens of motorbikes and cars were set on fire as riot police fired tear gas at protesters around Place de la Republique on Saturday.

In a tweet, the Paris police department warned protesters to disassociate themselves from "violent groups" near the square.

"Let law enforcement and emergency services intervene," it said.

Similar demonstrations were planned across the country on Saturday.

While early protests back in November focused on fuel tax hikes, the movement soon developed into a wider cause against social inequality and the leadership of French President Emmanuel Macron.

Participation has somewhat dwindled since the first weekend of protesting, which saw almost 290,000 people donning the high-visibility vests now associated with the movement, but the weekly demonstrators still attract numbers in the thousands.

Demonstrators were further incensed this week when some of the country's wealthiest prioritised huge sums of cash to the restoration of fire-ravaged Notre-Dame Cathedral, but were apparently less willing to donate such sums to the poor.

Almost £1bn has been raised since the destructive blaze ripped through the Parisian landmark.

A spokesperson for the yellow vest movement, Ingrid Levavasseur, expressed her frustration at the "astronomical sums" donated by the world's elite.

In a post on Facebook, she wrote: "In five months, you can tell there is a complete gap. I can tell you that we didn't get what we asked for."

Ms Levavasseur has since suggested that for every euro donated to the Notre-Dame, twice as much should be given to France's poorest.

Placards carried during Saturday's protest also highlighted the movements' dismay at the direction in which donations have been sent.

One such sign read: "Victor Hugo thanks all the generous donors for the Notre-Dame, and proposes that you do the same for Les Miserables."

It made reference to the French writer's two classic novels, Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.

Mr Macron has also been accused by some protesters of using the blaze as a tool to bolster his political image.

He was originally scheduled to address the yellow vests' demands in a speech on Monday, but postponed it in order to direct focus toward response to the fire.

The president's speech is expected to be rescheduled for next week.