Paris march for Gaza to go ahead Saturday despite police ban
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A demonstration against Israel’s Gaza offensive will go ahead on Saturday starting at 3pm Paris time despite a police ban on the march announced Friday. It is the third such protest to be banned in and around the French capital in the past week.
Youssef Boussoumah, head of the Party of the Indigenous of the Republic (PIR) – one of the rally’s organising groups – said the police had banned the demonstration over security fears relating to the proposed route of the march.
However, the suggested route, starting at Place de la Republique in central Paris and heading towards Place de la Nation in the east of the city, was “perfectly safe”, he told Reuters.
"This is a political decision, not a police decision," he said.
The French government has faced criticism for banning two previous pro-Palestinian rallies in Paris – one in the Barbès area in the north of the capital last Saturday and another in the suburb of Sarcelles the following day.
Despite the bans, thousands of protesters turned out for the rallies – both of which descended into violence as protesters clashed with police.
Critics have claimed the decision to ban the protests only served to heighten protesters’ anger and was a direct contributor to the violent scenes.
Another march, this time approved by the authorities, took place in Paris on Wednesday and passed largely without incident.
Organisers of this Saturday’s protest were outraged by the latest ban.
"The government is trying to ban a fundamental right," Omar Alsoumi, a member of the Palestinian Youth Movement, told the AFP news agency.
"It creates a division between those citizens who are authorised to express themselves and others who are not.”
Organisers urged to abandon protest
The New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) accused French President François Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls of “crossing a new threshold in their show of force against the Palestinian solidarity movement”.
“This new ban demonstrates once again the government's desire to silence any opposition to its support for the war being waged by Israel, by attacking the fundamental right to protest,” the group said in a statement.
In justifying the ban, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve referenced the “misbehavior” at the protest in Barbès, organised by the same groups behind this Saturday’s rally, as well as the “high-risk path” chosen for the march.
“I urge the organisers to abandon the event on Saturday," he told AFP.
But the NPA called on its members and those of other groups to “express their refusal of this ban and show more than ever their active solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people”.
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