Paris braces for pro-Palestinian demo despite ban

Paris braces for pro-Palestinian demo despite ban
Organisers have vowed to go forward with the Nakba Day march despite a 'disproportionate' ban from French authorities.
4 min read
Authorities have linked the protest ban to past instances of anti-Semitic violence [Getty]
Paris braced for possible clashes on Saturday as organisers vowed to hold a march in support of the Palestinians through the French capital despite a ban by authorities fearing a flare-up of violence.

Police have ordered shops to close from noon along the planned route, from the heavily immigrant Barbes neighbourhood in the north to the place de la Bastille.

Police had banned the march, and a court upheld the decision, fearing a repeat of fierce clashes that erupted during a similar Paris demonstration during the last Gaza war in 2014, when protesters took aim at Israeli targets.

"We all remember that extremely troubling protest where terrible phrases were yelled," Mayor Anne Hidalgo told AFP on Friday, welcoming the "wise" decision by the police to ban the march.

Similar protests in Germany and Denmark this week have degenerated into clashes leading to several arrests.

Organisers of the Paris march, who failed to have a court overturn the police ban, have announced a press conference for 1:00 pm (1100 GMT) ahead of the expected 3:00 pm start.

"We refuse to silence our solidarity with the Palestinians, and we will not be prevented from demonstrating," the Association of Palestinians in Ile-de-France, the region encompassing the capital, and other groups said in a statement.

They include anti-fascist associations, the citizens' activist group Attac and the far-left New Anti-Capitalist party.

A lawyer for the groups, Sefen Guez Guez, denounced the police ban as "disproportionate" and "politically motivated".

The police department warned on Twitter that anyone taking part would face fines of 135 euros ($165).

Repeat of unrest?

The protest had originally been called to mark the Nakba, as Palestinians call the "catastrophe" of the ethnic cleansing campaign committed during Israel's creation in 1948 which turned hundreds of thousands into refugees.

But a Paris court maintained that the "international and domestic context" justified fears of unrest "that could be as serious or even worse than in 2014".

Interior Minister Gerard Darmanin also called for similar bans in other cities if necessary, and officials have prohibited marches in Nice and some Paris suburbs.

Other protests are going forward in Lyon, Bordeaux, Marseille and other cities.

Critics accuse France of being too favourable toward Israel in the latest conflict, which has bombarded Gaza with artillery and air strike since Monday evening.

Israel's initial strikes on the densely populated coastal strip came after a barrage of rocket fire by Gaza militants, who were responding to attacks on Palestinian worshippers by Israeli forces and the attempted expulsion of several Palestinian families from their homes in occupied east Jerusalem.

The ban has caused a split among French politicians, with President Emmanuel Macron's centre-right party and the right-wing opposition supporting the move, but leftists calling it an unacceptable attack on freedom of expression.

Macron's office said he spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, offering his "condolences for the victims of the rocket fire claimed by Hamas and other terrorist groups".

The statement said Macron urged a return to peace and "his concern about the civilian population in Gaza".

At least 139 Palestinians, including some 40 children, have been killed by Israeli bombardment since Monday. Eight Israelis have been killed by rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

France has the largest Muslim population in Europe, with an estimated five to six million people.

It also has the largest Jewish population after Israel and the United States.

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