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France prepares for pro-Palestinian protest despite ban

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
France prepares for pro-Palestinian protest despite ban
A woman whose face is painted with the colors of the Palestinian flag takes part in a demonstration against Israel's military campaign in Gaza and show their support to the Palestinian people, on July 26, 2014 in Marseille, southern France. US Secretary of State John Kerry and other top diplomats from Europe and the Middle East began talks in Paris on July 26 to press efforts for a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. AFP PHOTO / BORIS HORVAT (Photo by BORIS HORVAT / AFP)

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 anti-Semitic violence.

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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 Israel-Palestinians war in 2014, when protesters took aim at synagogues and other Israeli and Jewish targets.

"We all remember that extremely troubling protest where terrible phrases like 'death to Jews' 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.

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Organisers of the Paris march, who failed to have a court overturn the police ban, have announced a press conference for 1pm ahead of the expected 3pm 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.

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The protest had originally been called to mark the Nakba, as Palestinians call the "catastrophe" of 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 seen a barrage of rocket fire from Gaza that has been met with Israeli artillery and air strikes.

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."

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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Anonymous 2021/05/16 10:48
Of course let's forget all the death and destruction Hamas etc have caused. It's always Israel's fault isn't it.

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