Water cannons and tear gas were used to disperse a banned pro-Palestinian rally in Paris this evening as French police prepared to arrest its organizers.
This followed statements by the country’s Interior Minister, Gérald Darmanin, who said there was “no room” for such protests against the war in Gaza, following Saturday’s terrorist atrocities.
Crowds gathered around Place de la République in the French capital on Thursday, chanting “Free Palestine”, “End the siege of Gaza”, “Murderer of Israel” and “Accomplice of Macron” – in reference to the support from the French president to Israel.
Hundreds of people gathered waving Palestinian flags and other symbols showing support for one side of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which erupted when Hamas terrorists launched a violent attack on Israeli civilians on Saturday.
Shortly after 8 p.m., a water cannon flooded much of the crowd of about 2,000 people, sending them running for cover. Tear gas was then fired as CRS riot patrols moved forward to clear the area.
Water cannons and tear gas were used to disperse a banned pro-Palestinian rally in Paris this evening
Protesters wave Palestinian flags during unauthorized demonstration in support of Palestinians
French gendarmes attack a protester during a banned demonstration in support of the Palestinians at Place de la République in Paris
“Our orders are to prevent the demonstration from continuing,” said a police chief at the scene. “People are asked to leave the area. »
French police have systematically banned all demonstrations in favor of Palestine since the 2014 Israel-Gaza war.
They have always cited “threats to public order” as the reason, but their opponents have accused them of ignoring the principles of freedom and freedom of expression.
Two groups – the France Palestine Solidarity Association, the other the Collectif National Paix Just Durable Palestine – organized Thursday evening’s demonstration.
The ban was again implemented “taking into account the risk of disturbing public order”, said a spokesperson for the Paris police headquarters.
Charlotte Vautier, 29, an employee of a non-profit association, said: “We live in a civil law country, a country where we have the right to take a stand and demonstrate.
“(It is unfair) to ban one side and allow the other and it does not reflect the reality of Palestine.”
Shortly after 8 p.m., a water cannon drenched much of the crowd of about 2,000 people, sending them running for cover.
A demonstration planned for Wednesday evening in Lyon, France’s second city, was also banned by local police.
The move comes as French President Emmanuel Macron pledged “unwavering support” for Israel following the attacks.
In a live televised speech Thursday evening, he called for national unity and to try to prevent any spillover of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into France, where there has been an increase in anti-Semitic acts.
Hundreds of people gathered waving Palestinian flags and other symbols showing support for one side of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
France has the largest Muslim and Jewish communities in Europe, and there are sometimes tensions between the two.
Anti-Semitic acts have increased in France since Hamas attacked Israeli towns on Saturday, killing more than 1,300 people, Interior Minister Darmanin said.
Israel responded by launching the most powerful bombing campaign on Hamas-led Gaza in the 75-year history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The bombings left more than 1,417 dead according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health and destroyed entire neighborhoods.
Mr Darmanin said France had seen an increase in online hatred, but also more direct threats.
“Since Saturday and the terrorist massacres in Israel, there have been more than a hundred anti-Semitic acts, mainly tags and swastikas,” declared Mr. Darmanin.
Eleven French citizens are confirmed dead in Israel and more than a dozen are missing.