Protesting theatre director rams French palace gate

PARIS - A theatre director rammed a car into the rear gate of the French presidential palace on Thursday in protest over cuts in government funding for the arts, police and state officials said.

The 67-year-old Italian national was arrested as he attempted to force his way through the late-nineteenth-century Grille du Coq, or Rooster Gate, which leads into the gardens of the Elysee palace from Gabriel Avenue, near the Champs-Elysees, the officials said.

He was protesting against cuts in subsidies to his small Parisian theatre, the Italian Comedy, a police source said, adding that the man was slightly injured in the collision and was being held in custody at a Parisian hospital.

The source said the man had already been arrested on Wednesday afternoon near the palace after pulling a model Harlequin -- a comic theatre character -- from his car and setting it on fire.

"He then threw around some leaflets denouncing the cuts in subsidies for his theatre," the source said. Police had arrested him but let him go shortly afterwards.

Socialist President Francois Hollande has cut into France's traditionally generous culture budget as part of his efforts to reduce the budget deficit.

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