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Protesting theater director rams French palace gate

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[December 28, 2013]  PARIS (Reuters)  A theater 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 19th century Grille du Coq, or Rooster Gate, which leads into the gardens of the Elysee palace.

He was protesting against cuts in subsidies to his small Parisian theater, 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 was first arrested on Wednesday afternoon near the palace after pulling a model Harlequin  a comic theater character  from his car and setting it on fire.

"He then threw around some leaflets denouncing the cuts in subsidies for his theater," 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.

Hollande was working in the palace as usual at the time of the incident, a press officer said. The gate was now being given a fresh coat of paint, he added.

A spokeswoman for the culture ministry said if the theater director wished to meet officials in a more conventional way, the ministry would gladly open its doors to him.

(Reporting by Gerard Bon; writing by Natalie Huet; editing by Mark Trevelyan)

[ 2013 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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