Pro-Palestinian protests

Palestinian solidarity rally banned in Paris amid growing Israel-Gaza violence

Demonstrators holding flags and banners attend a pro-Palestinian protest in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., May 12, 2021
Demonstrators holding flags and banners attend a pro-Palestinian protest in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., May 12, 2021 JBING via REUTERS - JBING

The Paris police prefecture has issued an order banning a Palestinian solidarity demonstration planned for Saturday at the request of the French interior minister, who cited serious security concerns. Pro-Palestinian rallies have been held in the US and are being organised in many countries this weekend following Israel’s latest offensive on the Gaza Strip.

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France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin asked the police on Thursday to ban a pro-Palestinian protest in Paris this weekend over the conflict with Israel, fearing a repeat of clashes during a similar situation in 2014.

Activists had called the protest in the working-class district of Barbès in northern Paris to demonstrate against Israel's use of force in the Gaza Strip in response to the rocket fire by militant group Hamas at the Jewish state.

"I have asked the Paris police chief to ban the protests on Saturday linked to the recent tensions in the Middle East," Darmanin wrote on Twitter.

"Serious disturbances to public order were seen in 2014," he added, urging police chiefs elsewhere in France to remain vigilant over demonstrations.

In a circular, he also asked local police chiefs to assure the "protection of places of worship, schools, cultural centres and businesses of the Jewish community."

Several peaceful Palestinian solidarity demonstrations took place in France in the summer of July 2014 to denounce an Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip.

But on 19 July 2014, several thousand protesters defied a ban on a demonstration in the multi-cultural neighbourhood of Barbès and the rally rapidly degenerated into violent clashes that lasted for hours.

Mixed reactions

The ban on the demonstration brought mixed reactions.

Eric Coquerel, an MP with the hard-left France Unbowed (LFI), described Darmanin’s decision as a “provocation”. “In doing this Mr. Darmanin is encouraging the risk of violence and clashes” he told France 2 television on Friday.

Interviewed on LCI television on Friday, former socialist prime minister Manuel Valls said the decision was “serious but justified” adding that “part of the left and hard left were using the conflict as a pretext to justify anti-Semitism”.

France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS), a leading French Palestinian rights advocacy group, said it was “scandalised by the decision”.

On Wednesday, Paris police detained Bertrand Heilbronn, the head of AFPS for several hours before he was released.

Heilbronn was arrested after he met with a French foreign ministry advisor as part of a delegation including members of parliament and representatives of trade unions and organisations, said the AFPS in a statement.

The detention of the veteran 71-year-old activist sparked outrage from several activists and political figures on the left, including Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of hard-left France Unbowed.

Strikes continue for 5th day

Israel fired artillery and mounted more air strikes against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on Friday amid constant rocket fire deep into Israel's commercial centre.

The Israeli military said in a statement that air and ground forces were attacking the Hamas-run enclave. Rocket barrages from Gaza swiftly followed.

With no sign of clashes abating, the UN Security Council will publicly discuss the worsening violence on Sunday, diplomats said after the United States earlier objected to a meeting on Friday.

More than 100 people in Gaza have died in the clashes, including 29 children, over the previous four days, according to Palestinian medical officials. Seven Israelis have been killed.

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