France’s interior minister called on police to ban a pro-Palestinian protest in Paris over the weekend against the recent escalation of Israeli airstrikes in the besieged Palestinian territory of Gaza and the crackdown in East Jerusalem and Occupied West Bank.
“I asked the Parisian police chief to ban demonstrations linked to recent tensions in the Middle East on Saturday,” Gerald Darmanin, French Minister of the Interior, wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
“Serious public order disturbances were noted in 2014,” he said, referring to protests against an Israeli offensive on Gaza that year.
“Instructions were given to the prefects to be particularly vigilant and firm,” he added.
In Paris, I asked the Prefect of Police to ban Saturday’s demonstrations in connection with recent tensions in the Middle East. Serious disturbances to public order were noted in 2014. Instructions were given to the Prefects to be particularly vigilant and firm.
– Gerald DARMANIN (@GDarmanin) May 13, 2021
Activists had called the demonstration in the Barbes neighborhood, north of Paris, to demonstrate against the intensification of Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip.
Over 100 people were killed in Gaza since Monday, including 27 children, according to health authorities in the enclave, and more than 580 others injured after violent Israeli attacks.
At least six Israelis and one Indian national were killed in Israel following rocket attacks by Hamas, the ruling political entity in Gaza.
The escalation of violence came after weeks of tension in occupied East Jerusalem about a pending court ruling on the forced eviction of several Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
In a circular seen by the AFP news agency, Darmanin also urged local police chiefs to ensure “the protection of places of worship, schools, cultural centers and businesses of the Jewish community”.
Several demonstrations took place in France in July 2014 to denounce an Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip.
On July 19, 2014, several thousand demonstrators defied the ban on a demonstration in Barbès and the rally quickly escalated into violence that lasted for hours.
“ To demonstrate is a right ”
Darmanin’s announcement was criticized by activists and politicians who said there was no reason to call off the protests.
“Demonstrating is a right that you should be the guarantor of,” French MP Elsa Faucillon said in a tweet in response 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!”
Absolutely lunar reason for prohibition. Demonstrating is a right that you should be the guarantor of. And in this case, given the silence of our country on the reasons for the attacks, it even seems a duty to me! https://t.co/hzdb45sqos
– Elsa Faucillon (@ElsaFaucillon) May 13, 2021
Sihame Assbague, a Paris-based journalist, said Darmanin’s decision to ban pro-Palestinian protests was due to two reasons, including “French colonial solidarity with the Israeli occupying forces.”
“You do not support anti-colonial political mobilizations,” she added.
The head of the Committee for Justice and Freedoms, Yasser Louati, told Al Jazeera in Paris that “we will walk if [French President Emmanuel] Macron and Darmanin like it or not ”.
“Palestinians have the right to exist and to defend themselves. If they can resist the bombs and ethnic cleansing, we can back the tear gas and stop it, ”said Louati, who is also the host of The Breakdown podcast.
The president of the solidarity group arrested
On Wednesday, French authorities arrested the president of the Palestinian solidarity group Association France-Palestine Solidarité (AFPS), which was planning to organize a peaceful rally in Paris.
Bertrand Heilbronn was arrested after attending a meeting at the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs. He was accompanied by parliamentarians and union representatives, according to an AFPS press release.
The solidarity group had called for a demonstration Wednesday in support of the Palestinians.
On Thursday, the AFPS announced that Heilbronn had been released.
PRESS RELEASE The pres. of the’@AFPSOfficial released, the mobilization for the #Palestine keep on going ! We call on France to guarantee the freedom of exp, to protect the Palestinians, to clearly condemn the attacks suffered & to take the necessary measures.https://t.co/fnY3WXcN9B
– france-palestine.org (@AFPSOfficiel) May 13, 2021