Paris bans pro-Palestinian rally planned for Saturday
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Paris’s police chiefs on Friday banned a pro-Palestinian demonstration planned for Saturday citing a “risk of violence”. France's interior minister said the decision was justified after clashes erupted at similar protests last weekend.
The demonstration’s organizers said they would appeal the decision made by the French capital’s Préfecture de Police.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the decision was justified after protests last weekend led to violence.
“I cannot accept a repetition [of these acts of violence] and I cannot take the risk of seeing French citizens, whatever their religious affiliations, exposed to violence,” he told reporters.
Earlier in the week, some 50 political parties, unions and activist groups called for rallies across France calling for an "immediate end" to the Israeli offensive that has left more than 260 people dead and to demand sanctions against the Jewish state.
The Israeli offensive has stoked passions in France -- which has the largest Muslim population in western Europe as well as a 500,000-strong Jewish community.
Although the majority on both sides in France do not take public positions on the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, tensions in the region have fuelled hate speech on social media.
Divisions in French society
And the latest conflict has again highlighted divisions within French society – a Jewish community increasingly concerned over anti-Semitism, French people of north African descent who include a growing radical Islamic fringe, and far-left activists whose opposition to Israeli policies sometimes verges on anti-Semitism.
Recent attacks on Jewish targets have fuelled an increasing exodus to Israel, with 2,200 Jews leaving France in the first six months of the year compared with fewer than 600 a year ago.
On Sunday, a demonstration in Paris attended by several thousand people degenerated into violence when some protesters clashed with police, and a small group tried to storm two synagogues in the centre of the capital.
The scuffles involved both pro-Palestinian activists and members of the Jewish Defence League, deemed a "right-wing terrorist group" by the FBI.
These prompted a warning from President François Hollande, who said he did not want to see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "imported into France" and that attacks on any place of worship would not be tolerated.
Since then, leaders of Muslim and Jewish communities in France have called for calm, while Cazeneuve issued instructions to police across the country to protect places of worship from attack.
(FRANCE 24 with Reuters and AFP)