France - Middle East

44 arrests, 17 police injured as banned Paris pro-Gaza protest erupts in violence

More than 40 people were arrested and 17 police were injured on a banned Gaza solidarity demonstration in Paris on Saturday, French officials say. Chaos reigned in the Barbès area of the city in the evening after police and protesters clashed.

Demonstrators confront CRS riot police on the banned Gaza protest in Paris Saturday
Demonstrators confront CRS riot police on the banned Gaza protest in Paris Saturday Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

Several thousand people defied a ban on the pro-Palestinian rally, assembling under the overhead metro at Barbès-Rochechouart, waving Palestinian flags and chanting slogans against the Israeli offensive on Gaza and President François Hollande’s alleged complicity.

Dossier: Gaza 2009

According to demonstrators and Le Monde’s reporter, police appeared to fire teargas before any serious violence had taken place, although Libération reports that big firecrackers were thrown at police, but in the subsequent clashes youths threw stones and other projectiles at the police, injuring 17 and leading to 44 arrests.

Shops closed their shutters and the Barbès-Rochechouart and Château Rouge metro stations were temporarily closed and passengers evacuated from some trains as some protesters took over the tracks.

At least 20 demonstrators were injured, according to a statement by the organisers.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve “strongly condemn[ed] the violence” in a statement, noting that “the timely measures and the resources mobilised ensured the containment of unfortunately predictable incidents that was brought under complete control since no serious damage took place”.

The protest was banned on the grounds that it was a “threat to public order” after clashes outside two synagogues the previous Sunday.

The far-left New Anticapitalist Party (NPA), the only political party to call on demonstrators to defy the ban, declared that the government had “entered into a trial of strength that it lost”.

The violence was inevitable, according to the NPA.

“How could it have been otherwise given the large police presence and the government’s desire to gag any opposition to its opposition to the war started by the state of Israel,” a statement asked, adding that new demonstrations would be held on Wednesday.

A further demonstration is also planned for Saturday.

Demonstrations were also banned in Nice in the south-east and Sarcelles, near Paris.

Peaceful protests went ahead in several other French towns and cities, including Marseille (3,000), Lyon (4,000), Strasbourg (1,300) and Avignon (1,500), while thousands marched around the world, including in Israel.

Thousands of Palestinians were fleeing northern Gaza on Sunday morning following a night of Israeli bombing.

The reported Palestinian death toll was 370 and five Israelis had been killed.

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