French interior minister under fire for permitting neo-Nazi rally

The neo-Nazis marched with flags adorning the Celtic cross, a popular symbol of white supremacy.

 The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.  (photo credit: FLICKR)
The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.
(photo credit: FLICKR)

French Interior Minister Gerald Marmanin has come under fire for allowing hundreds of neo-Nazis to host a rally and march through Paris on May 9.

On May 8 1945, World War II ended and bells rang throughout France, so May 8 is celebrated in France because of its special symbolic meaning. The rally had received authorization from city officials.

French police issued a statement, tweeting: “In France, a demonstration can only be banned if there is a proven risk of disturbing public order. Last January, the decree prohibiting an ultra-right demonstration in Paris was suspended by the administrative judge.”

The neo-Nazi march

Members of different far-right groups marched with flags in memory of Sébastien Deyzieu, a far-right activist who died in 1994. 

Nazi uniforms and a Swastika flag that were confiscated by the Berlin police during raids against German neo-Nazis (credit: REUTERS)Nazi uniforms and a Swastika flag that were confiscated by the Berlin police during raids against German neo-Nazis (credit: REUTERS)

22-year-old Sébastien Deyzieu fell to his death while protesting American imperialism. In honor of Deyzieu, the National Youth Front march annually on May 9.

The demonstration ended with participants chanting "Europe, youth, revolution", the slogan of the violent GUD far-right student group that was influential in the 1990s, an AFP reporter said.

The demonstrators wore black clothes with masks and flew flags adorned with the Celtic cross, according to European Jewish Congress.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, “The white supremacist version of the Celtic Cross, which consists of a square cross interlocking with or surrounded by a circle, is one of the most important and commonly used white supremacist symbols.” 

“Norwegian Nazis used a version of the symbol in the 1930s and 1940s. After World War II, a variety of white supremacist groups and movements adopted the symbol. Today, this verson of the Celtic Cross is used by neo-Nazis, racist skinheads, Ku Klux Klan members and virtually every other type of white supremacist.”

Criticisms of the rally

"It's unacceptable to have allowed 500 neo-Nazis and fascists parade in the heart of Paris. Their organisations, the display of their ideology, slogans, insignias are as much an insult to the dead as an incitement to racial hatred," Senator David Assouline of the Socialist Party tweeted. 

The rally was an extra point of contention as French President Macron has been accused of silencing protestors and demonstrators speaking out against him but rallies by the far-right have been permitted. 

Ian Brossat, a spokesman for the Communist party, joked to France24 that "saucepans are clearly more dangerous than jackboots".

After the public outcry, Darmanin told the National Assembly, parliament's lower house, "We will let the courts decide if case law allows these demonstrations."