In pictures: Youths clash with police at banned Gaza protest
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Thousands of people took part in a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Paris on Saturday despite a police ban on the rally. Scuffles broke out between a hardcore element throwing projectiles and police, who said they made around 50 arrests.
The demonstration got under way at around 3pm at Place de la République amid a tense and uncertain atmosphere after rioting erupted at a similar protest last week.
Despite a calm start to the demonstration, which had attracted upwards of 4,000 people, by 6pm police were using tear gas to disperse 200 to 300 hooded youths throwing projectiles at police.
Reporting from the scene, FRANCE 24’s Mehdi Chebil said the youths were throwing stones at shop windows and had also targeted journalists.
“Two photographers have been hit,” Chebil said. “These youths are trying to provoke the police by throwing glass, stones, anything they can lay their hands on."
Police reported making around 50 arrests.
Earlier, demonstrators chanted “Israel assassin” and other slogans accusing French President François Hollande of siding with Israel as it continues its operation in Gaza, a conflict that has claimed more than 1,000 Palestinian lives, mostly civilians. Around 40 Israelis, most of the soldiers, have also been killed.
One demonstrator was seen trying to burn an Israeli flag, but was booed by many in the crowd.
Government under fire
The French government has come under fire for banning this and two previous pro-Palestinian rallies in Paris, one in the Barbès area in the north of Paris last Saturday and another in the suburb of Sarcelles. Despite the bans thousands of protesters turned out for the demonstrations – both of which erupted in clashes with police.
Visiting a Paris Mosque on Friday, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called for calm, but critics argued that banning the protest only served to heighten protesters’ anger.
“The ban has created a strained atmosphere,” said Olivier Besancenot, of the New Anti-Capitalist Party, ahead of the demonstration. “We fear the likelihood of police provocation.”
The French prime minister said Friday that “hooligans” had undermined the legitimacy of the protest movement, which is led by an assortment of far-left activists, a growing radical Islamic fringe and those with a strong opposition to Israeli policies in the Palestinian Territories.
Paris police chiefs had reportedly mobilised around 1,500 of France’s notorious riot police for Saturday’s banned rally.