Paris pro-Palestine demo ban blasted as ‘irresponsible’
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The former head of France’s France-Palestine Solidarity (AFPS) association has called Paris’s ban on Saturday’s planned pro-Palestine demo “irresponsible”, telling FRANCE 24 that organisers would be unable to control protesters.
French police chiefs on Friday banned the march, due to begin at 3pm Paris time (GMT+2), through central Paris, citing a “risk to public order” after violent incidents at a similar protest last week.
Police said they could not guarantee a safe march “due to heightened tensions" fuelled by Israel’s ongoing campaign in Gaza.
Last Sunday, a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Paris attended by several thousand people descended into violence when some protesters clashed with police, while a small group tried to storm two synagogues in the city centre.
The scuffles involved both pro-Palestinian activists and members of the Jewish Defence League (JDL), a group deemed a “right-wing terrorist group” by the FBI and banned in both the USA and Israel, but not in France.
Ban ‘poses its own risks’
According to Bernard Ravenel, who was president of the AFPS from 2001 to 2009, banning the demonstration would be seen as provocative and “posed its own risks to public order”.
“The ban means that if any of the organisers are seen turning up they will be breaking the law,” he told FRANCE 24 on Saturday.
“Demonstrators will turn up, inevitably, but there will be no one there with any authority to maintain order. Any violent incidents will be blamed on the [absent] organisers and used as a pretext to ban future demos.”
“Everyone is worried about this,” he added. “It is a wholly irresponsible move by the police and we are afraid of the consequences.”
According to Ravenel, the JDL was largely responsible for provoking the crowds during last week’s protests, although there were reports of anti-Semitic slogans being shouted during the demonstration.
“The JDL were largely responsible for those incidents,” Ravenel insisted. “They turned up with the sole intention of provoking the crowd and the authorities interpreted this, sadly, as an anti-Semitic march. This is simply not true.”
Ravenel, who called the ban “un-constitutional” (the right to protest is enshrined in French law), said organisers had appealed unsuccessfully against the police decision, but were determined to hold another march in Paris next Wednesday.
Police warn domonstrators and counter-demonstrators
Although France's mainstream political parties usually avoid taking public positions on the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, both the ruling Socialists and the opposition UMP party have come out in support of Saturday's ban.
Both parties say they do not want to see the Israel-Paliestinian conflict "playing out on French territory".
On Saturday, Paris’s police chief Bernard Boucault called on those hoping to attend the planned demo to stay away.
He said in a statement that “any demonstrators and also counter-demonstrators [a reference to the JDL and other pro-Israeli groups] turning up risk being arrested”.