Police fired tear gas and brought in water cannon and a horse brigade to disperse several thousand yellow vest protesters in Paris at the end of a march through the French capital.
Anti-Semitic remarks were aimed at a noted philosopher on the protesters’ route in a bitter finale to the 14th straight weekend of demonstrations.
Tear gas filled the esplanade of Les Invalides monument, obscuring the gold dome that crowns the monument housing Napoleon’s tomb. Tension also marked demonstrations in other cities.
In Rouen, Normandy, a car blocked by demonstrators was pushed through the crowd, slightly injuring four people, the news channel BFMTV reported.
Police used tear gas and water cannon in Bordeaux, a stronghold of the yellow vest movement. Another demonstration in the capital has been planned for Sunday to mark three months since the movement held its first nationwide protests on November 17.
In Paris, an array of insults, some anti-Semitic, by a handful of yellow vest protesters were aimed at the well-known French philosopher, Alain Finkelkraut, underlining the excesses that surge within an increasingly divided movement with radical fringes.
French president Emmanuel Macron tweeted that “the anti-Semitic injuries he (Mr Finkelkraut) received are the absolute negation of what we are and of what makes us a great nation”.
Interior minister Christophe Castaner denounced “the surge of pure hate”, while government spokesman Benjamin Griveau tweeted that “the ugly beast lurks in the anonymity of the crowd”.
Mr Finkelkraut once showed sympathy for the movement but criticised it in a recent interview with Le Figaro daily. Some yellow vest protesters have expressed racist or anti-Semitic views online and on the sidelines of protests.
“I felt an absolute hate,” Mr Finkelkraut told the Sunday paper Le Journal du Dimanche, going on to express relief that police intervened.
The Paris prosecutor’s office said 15 people were detained for questioning, far less than the scores detained in earlier, larger demonstrations that degenerated into scattered rioting and destruction.
Violence has marked most of the protests that started against fuel taxes and grew into a mass movement against Mr Macron and his pro-business policies.
However, the increasingly divided movement is having trouble maintaining momentum, as well as support from the public which had initially backed protesters.
French media quoted the interior ministry as saying that 41,500 protesters nationwide turned out on Saturday, some 10,000 less than the previous week, with 5,000 in Paris.
In Paris, tensions mounted as the more than four-hour march ended at the Invalides, with projectiles thrown at police.
Many French people are asking aloud how long the yellow vest movement will keep up its protests, which drain security forces and have dented the French economy.