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CORSICA

Corsica protests banned after anti-Arab demos

France banned demonstrations in part of the Corsican capital Ajaccio on Sunday following two days of anti-Arab protests and sectarian tensions.

Corsica protests banned after anti-Arab demos
Protesters march towards the prefecture in the Corsican capital Ajaccio on Saturday. Photo: Yannick Graziani/AFP
Security forces also cordoned off Ajaccio's poor Jardins de l'Empereur housing estate, as Corsica's administrator Christophe Mirmand told AFP that the ban would be in effect until at least January 4 and cover “all protests and gatherings”.
   
Hundreds of protesters marched for a second straight day Saturday through several working-class districts of Ajaccio shouting slogans such as “This is our home!” and “Arabs get out”.
   
The unrest followed a Christmas Eve clash in which two firefighters and a police officer were injured at the estate, home to some 1,700 people.
   
Regional official Francois Lalanne said a fire had been “deliberately lit” in the neighbourhood in a ruse aimed at “ambushing” the emergency services.
   
A firefighter told French television that “about 20 people armed with iron bars (and) baseball bats” had tried to attack them but were unable to smash through the windows of their truck.
   
The next day, 600 people gathered in front of police headquarters in Ajaccio in a show of support for the police and firefighters. But some 300 broke away to head for the housing estate.
   
Shouting xenophobic slogans, the group smashed a Muslim prayer room, partially burning books including copies of the Koran, Lalanne said.
   
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls wrote on Twitter that the break-in was “an unacceptable desecration”, while also condemning the “intolerable attack” on the firefighters.
   
“This behaviour must stop. It hurts Corsica's image,” Mirmand said, describing as “shocking and unacceptable” remarks that could lead to prosecution for hate speech.
   
The population of France's lush Mediterranean “Isle de Beaute” (Island of Beauty) increases by tenfold during peak tourist season.
   
The Jardins de l'Empereur (Emperor's Gardens) area perched on an Ajaccio hillside was tense on Sunday amid rumours that a new protest was planned despite the ban.
   
The unrest came as France remains jittery following the November 13 jihadist attacks in Paris that left 130 dead.
   
Regional elections in mid-December handed major gains to France's anti-immigration far right, with Corsica's nationalist party winning power for the first time.

PROTESTS

Students blockade Paris schools in election protest

Students blockaded five schools in Paris on Tuesday to demonstrate their political concerns ahead of the second round of the Presidential elections on Sunday.

Students blockade Paris schools in election protest

In addition to the five blockaded lycées, the université Paris 8 in Saint-Denis was closed “for security reasons”.

The students – who are too young to make their voices heard at the ballot box – were protesting against the options available to voters in the second round – where incumbent Emmanuel Macron takes on far-right leader Marine Le Pen – and follows earlier student protests at the Sorbonne.

Many were demonstrating in protest at what they saw as inadequate policies on climate change and social issues from both candidates in the final round of voting, as well as the lack of choice for the electorate.

“It is a continuation of what happened at the Sorbonne,” one student told AFP. “We want a third social round, because the two candidates qualified for the second round have no social or ecological programmes. 

“We want to give a new breath to this Fifth Republic a little at the end of the race.

“We are fed up with the fascist state. We are here against Marine Le Pen, against fascism, for the climate and against capitalism,” another student at the lycée Louis-le-Grand in the capital’s fifth arrondissement said.

“We have blocked all the entrances. We will stay there as long as possible.”

About 100 students blockaded the prestigious school. Some students chant slogans against the “Front National” – the former name of second-round candidate Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National party.

The blockades ended peacefully at the end of the day.

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