French authorities have given the green light for a pro-Palestine demonstration to be held in Paris on Wednesday, despite previous protests descending into violence.
Protesters will march from Denfert-Rochereau in the south of Paris to Invalides in the centre of the French capital from around 6:30pm (Paris time) on Wednesday to protest Israel's ongoing assault on the Gaza Strip.
Organisers agreed to modify the route following discussions with police to avoid potential trouble spots, such as Jewish places of worship.
The march has been called by the National Collective for a Just Peace between Israelis and Palestinians – a group that comprises numerous groups, trade unions and political parties.
It will be the first authorised pro-Palestinian rally to take place in Paris since a July 13 protest near Bastille ended in violent scuffles on the streets of the capital.
The French government came under fire for its decision to ban the demonstrations, which critics said only served to heighten tensions and increase the likelihood of confrontations while infringing on civil liberties.
The government blamed the violence on anti-Semitic and extremist groups among the protesters, while saying the troubles seen at the protests justified its decision to ban them.
On Tuesday, a court in Paris handed prison sentences of between three and six months to four men involved in clashes with police at the Sarcelles protest.
The previous day, three people were given suspended prison sentences for their involvement in Saturday’s protest in north Paris, while another was acquitted.
‘Victory for democracy and freedom of expression’
Pro-Palestinian groups hailed the decision to allow Wednesday’s march as an important victory.
Taoufiq Tahani, president of the French-Palestine Solidarity Association (AFPS), one of the group’s taking part in Wedneday's rally, called it a “just victory for democracy and freedom of expression, which had been undermined by the government.”
Not all were happy with the decision.
Christian Estrosi, an MP for the centre-right UMP party, told France 2 television: “After what happened in Sarcelles, authorising (the march) without conditions is unacceptable on the part of the government.”
Other groups joining the protest include the Communist Party (PCF), the New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA), France’s Green Party (EELV) and the Human Rights League (LDH).
"There will be no anti-Semitic remarks at tomorrow’s protest,” promised Pierre Tartakowski, president of the LDH. “It is very clear, this is not why the protest was called.”
A number of MPs from the ruling Socialist party have also announced their intention to take part in the march.
"Our goal is not to create another conflict in France but to support peace through coming together," they said in a statement.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-07-22