Pro-Palestinian demonstrators brawled with police in Paris on Saturday as they defied a ban on a rally against violence in the Gaza Strip.
On Friday, the Prefecture of Paris (which supervises police services in the capital) forbade the march planned from Boulevard Barbès in Montmartre (where many North Africans and blacks live) to Place de l’Opéra, “in light of the serious risks of public order disorder trouble that would accompany holding it in a context of increased tension.”
Bans were also placed on anti-Israel demonstrations in Sarcelles near Paris and in Nice.
“Those who do not respect the ban, in support of protests or against them, face the risk of being stopped, arrested and handed over to the courts,” Paris police said.
Hundreds of protesters assembled at Boulevard Barbès, and marched to the next metro station, Château Rouge, where CRS riot policemen blocked their progress. The demonstrators threw stones and other objects at the policemen forces, shouting: “Palestine will live, Palestine will win,” and “Israel assassin, Hollande accomplice.”
Officers responded by firing tear gas canisters and stun grenades.
There were no reports of injuries or arrests.
Demonstrators also burned Israeli flags.
President François Hollande earlier said he had asked his interior minister to ban protests that could turn violent, after demonstrators marched on two synagogues in Paris last weekend and fought with Jewish security volunteers and riot police.
“That’s why I asked the interior minister, after an investigation, to ensure that such protests would not take place,” he told journalists during a visit to Chad.
Peaceful rallies were held in more than a dozen other cities, from Lille in the north to Marseille in the South.
“This ban on demonstrations, which was decided at the last minute, actually increases the risk of public disorder,” the Greens Party said. “It’s a first in Europe.”
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve justified the bans by saying the security risk is too great and citing “intolerable excesses,” prompting outrage from left-wing and pro-Palestinian groups. He had asked police in cities to examine security risks city by city and, where necessary, to issue ban orders.
The far-left New Anti-Capitalist Party, an organizer of last Sunday’s rally that turned into a pogrom and the banned one in Paris, urged protesters in Paris to defy the ban, prompting police to issue a warning.
The New Anti-Capitalist Party was formerly the Revolutionary Communist League, a Trotskyite movement created in late ’60s by the Alain Krivine, the son of Jewish immigrants from Ukraine, as a sister movement of Matzpen, a now-defunct Israeli revolutionary socialist and anti-Zionist organization.
The organizers appealed against the ban to the Court of Appeal of Paris, which confirmed it the same day.
The party was furious against the decision, “which is opposed to fundamental liberty,” its lawyer Hosni Maati said.
There was “great anger that must express itself considering the escalation in Gaza,” he added.
“The solidarity with the Palestinians must be able to express itself in Paris,” said Sandra Demarcq, a New Anti-Capitalist Party official.
Six Socialist and Greens deputies also came out against the decision, “which makes France first country to ban these protests.”
On Thursday, Le Parisien daily asked its readers on its website: After the incidents, should the protests be prohibited? The Siona Jewish movement asked members of the community to “vote massively yes and to mobilize all your friends.”
The New Anti-Capitalist Party has already announced another demonstration for Wednesday at the Place de la Republique in Paris.
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius responded to criticism France was biased in favor of Israel: “In no way does this mean that the French government has taken a position against the Palestinians,” he told journalists during a visit to Jordan.
Elsewhere in Europe, a man set off a security alert in Geneva when he stopped a tram to retrieve bags that included a book with a radical Islamist image in it, police said.
The incident coincided with some 300 pro-Palestinian protesters gathering in front of the UN’s European headquarters in the Swiss city.
Last Sunday, mostly Muslim protesters besieged Jews inside the Synagogue de la Roquette near the Place de la Bastille, and fought with its defenders outside. Three Jews were injured, as rioters battled members of the LDJ (the Jewish Defense League) and the Betar youth movement. Only the intervention of CRS policemen prevented more injuries.
In the first three months of 2014 more Jews left France for Israel than at any other time since the Jewish state was created in 1948, with many citing rising anti-Semitism as a factor.