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French police turn out en masse to enforce protest ban

French police turned out in force in Paris and other parts of the country on Saturday as they successfully enforced a ban on protests against a US-made film and cartoons published by a French magazine ridiculing the Prophet Mohammed.

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French police were deployed en masse throughout Paris and several other parts of the country on Saturday where they successfully enforced a ban on protests against a US-made film and cartoons published by French magazine Charlie Hebdo ridiculing the Prophet Mohammed, detaining at least 21 people in the capital.

The arrests were made near the city’s Trocadero square, as well as at the Place de la Concorde, where 150 people were detained during an unauthorised demonstration just last week. Riot police turned out in force at the city's famed Grand Mosque and other areas in a bid to enforce the protest ban.

Two metro stations at Concorde, which is located near both the US embassy and the Elysée palace, were closed for security reasons, police said, adding that many of those arrested were detained for refusing to present ID papers.

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Farther north in the city of Lille, police reportedly stopped a group of around a dozen women as they attempted to unfurl a banner, and arrested a man who appeared to be giving them orders. When asked why they had turned out to demonstrate, members of the group said they wanted to protest against "provocations against Islam".

In Marseille in the south, a police helicopter and 60 riot police were deployed to prevent any protests, but only a single demonstrator turned out. Around 30 journalists were also on hand to witness the man's attempt to defy the ban.

While social networking websites were flooded this week with comments calling on Muslims in France to hold new protests, leaders of the country’s Muslim community called on the public to respect the law.

Paris Grand Mosque head Dalil Boubakeur said Saturday that the absence of any serious trouble on Saturday proved that "the response of the Muslim community in France has been one of contemptuous silence in the face of those who sought to provoke."

Growing outrage over the film “Innocence of Muslims” and Charlie Hebdo’s decision to publish the inflammatory cartoons Wednesday prompted Interior Minister Manuel Valls to ban protests this weekend, saying they would inevitably threaten public order.

While police patrolled the streets of Paris, it was also announced on Saturday that a 24-year-old rail worker was sentenced to three months in jail for carrying a weapon and participating in an armed gathering during last week’s protests in the capital.

Meanwhile, in the western city of La Rochelle, police have arrested a man for apparently using a jihadi website to call for Stephane Charbonnier, chief of Charlie Hebdo magazine, to be decapitated, according to a judicial source.

(FRANCE24 with wires)

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