Four days after pro-Palestinians defied a protest ban and clashed with police in Paris, the French capital is preparing for a new march. Wednesday’s rally is legal, but authorities and organisers are nonetheless taking added precautions.
The march in solidarity with Palestinians in conflict-ravaged Gaza will begin at Place Denfert-Rochereau at 6pm local time and snake through the Left Bank of Paris.
There was a subdued tension in the capital ahead of the rally that has been called by left-wing political parties, unions, pro-Palestinian activists and pacifist groups.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve took to radio airwaves on Wednesday morning to say that added security measures would be in place, and to warn that acts of anti-Semitism would be swiftly punished (see video in player).
“I have given specific orders to security forces so they can quickly intervene if any anti-Semitic acts are committed,” Cazeneuve told France Inter radio, reminding listeners that anti-Semitic slogans were a criminal offense under the law.
Cazeneuve, the head of France’s police, was hoping to avoid a repeat of the chaotic scenes that erupted in northern Paris over the past two weekends.
Pro-Palestinians who assembled in northern Paris on Saturday, despite a ban by police, ran through clouds of tear gas and threw rocks at security forces sent to disperse them.
The protest ban came after violent incidents on July 13, even if pro-Israel groups instigated some of the unrest from the sidelines of that march. However, there were unprovoked acts of brutal vandalism against Jewish businesses and a synagogue in the Parisian suburb of Sarcelles on Sunday.
The next day religious leaders from both the Muslim and Jewish communities converged on Sarcelles for an inter-faith prayer gathering, and to plead for calm from all corners.
To ban or not to ban
“Along with protest organisers, we have made decisions about the itinerary of the march... that will allow security forces to do their job,” Cazeneuve added Wednesday, in reference to the effort to keep protesters on large boulevards and away from synagogues.
Activists were also adopting their own measures in a bid to prevent further violence. France’s CGT union and three far-left political parties said they would join forces to ensure that members who are well-acquainted with managing security at protests will be present throughout the march.
While the French government was struggling with the questionable decision to ban pro-Palestinian gatherings, it appeared such a move was gathering support among public opinion.
A survey by French polling firm Ifop, published in the conservative daily Le Figaro on Tuesday, revealed that 62% of people favoured banning pro-Palestinian marches because they routinely led to violence.
The majority support for banning the protests was shared by both left- and right-wing voters, Ifop said.
The 15-day Israeli offensive in the Islamist-ruled enclave has killed over 650 Palestinian civilians, according to Gaza health officials. Thirty-one Israelis, mostly soldiers, have been killed during the same period.
Date created : 2014-07-23