Pro-Palestinian protests in France on hold after ban

Police used water cannon to disperse demonstrators on Thursday evening who defied the government directive

French police used water cannon on protesters gathered at Place de la Republique in Paris on Thursday night. AFP
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Demonstrations in support of Palestinians appeared to be on hold in France on Friday, a day after some protesters defied an Interior Ministry ban on the rallies.

The rethink came after a night of clashes when police used water cannon to disperse about 3,000 people who gathered in Paris on Thursday chanting slogans such as “Israel murderer, Macron accomplice”.

Peaceful protests were held in large cities across the country, with about 60 people gathering in the south-eastern city of Grenoble.

Police stopped them from reaching the local train station and checked IDs, according to local media. No incidents were reported.

In Bordeaux, local authorities allowed a pro-Palestine sit-in to take place, organisers told The National. About 300 people gathered for a rally, they said. This was possible because the participants remained in one place, unlike protest marches, which necessitate a more intense police presence.

The National has contacted the local prefecture, a state authority with representation in the country's departments and regions, for comment.

In a message sent to department heads on Thursday, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin requested a ban on pro-Palestinian protests because they were “likely to disturb public order”.

Paris police chief Laurent Nunez said he feared “anti-Jewish attitudes” and protests would “glorify the terrorist attacks committed in the past days in the Middle East”.

The France-Palestine Solidarity Association, one of the main groups that organises rallies across the country, unsuccessfully appealed against the ban issued by police in Paris on Tuesday. It has withdrawn its calls to protest.

In a televised address to the nation on Thursday evening, French President Emmanuel Macron said that “protests which could give rise to excesses will be prohibited. We are also extremely vigilant in the face of expressions of hatred on social networks and the terrorist threat”.

France has Europe's largest Jewish community, with thousands of dual citizens living in Israel, as well as the largest Muslim population in western Europe.

Israel on Friday ordered north Gaza's population of more than a million people to leave as it prepares to stage a ground offensive, nearly a week after Hamas launched deadly raids into Israeli territory that killed more than 1,200 Israelis.

Israel responded with numerous air strikes on Gaza that have taken the overall death toll to 2,872 since Saturday.

Updated: October 13, 2023, 12:40 PM