France’s interior minister has asked police to ban a pro-Palestinian protest in Paris this weekend against the recent escalation of Israeli air raids in the besieged Palestinian territory of Gaza and crackdowns in the occupied East Jerusalem and West Bank.
“I have asked the Paris police chief to ban the protests on Saturday linked to the recent tensions in the Middle East,” Gerald Darmanin, France’s interior minister wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
“Serious disturbances to the public order were noted in 2014,” he said, referring to protests against an Israeli offensive on Gaza that year.
“Instructions were given to prefects to be particularly vigilant and firm,” he added.
A Paris, j’ai demandé au Préfet de police d’interdire les manifestations de samedi en lien avec les récentes tensions au Proche-Orient. De graves troubles à l’ordre public furent constatés en 2014. Consigne a été donnée aux Préfets d’être particulièrement vigilants et fermes.
— Gérald DARMANIN (@GDarmanin) May 13, 2021
Activists had called the protest in the Barbes district of northern Paris to demonstrate against Israel’s intensifying aerial bombardment of the Gaza Strip.
More than 100 people have been killed in Gaza since Monday, including 27 children, according to the enclave’s health authorities, and more than 580 others wounded after heavy Israeli attacks.
At least six Israelis and one Indian national have been killed in Israel from rocket attacks by Hamas, the governing political entity in Gaza.
The escalation in violence came after weeks of tensions in occupied East Jerusalem about a scheduled court ruling on the forced expulsion of several Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.
In a circular seen by the AFP news agency, Darmanin also urged local police chiefs to assure the “protection of places of worship, schools, cultural centres and businesses of the Jewish community”.
Several demonstrations took place in France during July 2014 to denounce an Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip.
On July 19, 2014, several thousand protesters defied a ban on a demonstration at Barbes and the rally rapidly degenerated into violence that lasted for hours.
‘Demonstrating is a right’
The announcement by Darmanin was criticised by activists and politicians who said there was no reason to cancel the protests.
“Demonstrating is a right that you should be the guarantor of,” Member of French Parliament Elsa Faucillon said in a tweet in reply to Darmanin.
“And in this case, given the silence of our country on the reasons for the attacks, it even seems a duty to me!”
Motif d’interdiction absolument lunaire. Manifester est un droit dont vous devriez être le garant. Et en l’occurrence vu le silence de notre pays sur les raisons des attaques, ça me semble même un devoir ! https://t.co/hzdb45sqos
— Elsa Faucillon (@ElsaFaucillon) May 13, 2021
Sihame Assbague, a journalist based in Paris, said Darmanin’s decision to ban pro-Palestine protest was for two reasons, including that “there is French colonial solidarity with the Israeli occupation forces”.
“You do not support anti-colonial political mobilisations,” she added.
The head of the Committee for Justice and Liberties Yasser Louati told Al Jazeera from Paris that “we will march whether [French President Emmanuel] Macron and Darmanin like it or not”.
“Palestinians have the right to exist and to defend themselves. If they can resist bombs and ethnic cleansing, we can sustain tear gas and arrest for them,” Louati, who is also the host of the podcast Le Breakdown, said.
Solidarity group president arrested
On Wednesday, French authorities arrested the president of Palestinian solidarity group Association France-Palestine Solidarite (AFPS), who was planning to organise a peaceful rally in Paris.
Bertrand Heilbronn was arrested after attending a meeting at the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs. He was accompanied by members of parliament and union representatives, according to a statement by the AFPS.
The solidarity group had called for a demonstration on Wednesday in support of the Palestinians.
On Thursday, AFPS announced that Heilbronn had been released.
COMMUNIQUÉ Le prés. de l’@AFPSOfficiel libéré, la mobilisation pour la #Palestine continue ! Nous ddons à la France de garantir la lib d’exp, de protéger les palestiniens, condamner clairement les agressions subies & de prendre les mesures qui s’imposent.https://t.co/fnY3WXcN9B
— france-palestine.org (@AFPSOfficiel) May 13, 2021