French court says pro-Palestinian protests can be banned depending on circumstances

Local officials will be able to evaluate if a demonstration poses a risk to public order, Council of State rules

Protesters gather for a demonstration in support of Palestinians in Paris. AFP
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A French court has dismissed an appeal by activists seeking to end the Interior Minister's ban on all pro-Palestinian protests.

The Council of State, France's highest administrative court, said on Wednesday that it was up to local authorities to evaluate case by case the risks to public order.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin sent a note sent to regional police on October 12, ordering that “pro-Palestinian protests, because they are likely to generate disturbances to public order, must be banned”.

But activist group Comite Action Palestine brought an appeal against the instruction to court, saying a total ban is not justified and encroaches on freedom of expression and assembly.

The Council said in its decision that, while the judges regretted the approximative wording of the Minister's note, its intention was to instruct authorities to “ban all protests that support the Palestinian cause, that publicly justify or valorise, directly or indirectly, terrorist acts like those committed in Israel on October 7 by Hamas members.”

Authorities could not decide to ban a protest solely based on this note, it said.

But given the tensions and rise in anti-Semitism in France, protests that “support Hamas are of a nature to provoke disturbances to public order,” the court added.

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“It doesn't make sense to say that pro-Palestine protests, by their nature, will generate disturbances to public order – look at the rest of the world, there are protests with thousands of people for Palestine,” Vincent Brengarth, lawyer for Comite Action Palestine, told Reuters before the decision.

On Wednesday a few hours before the ruling, the police authorities of Marseille said two pro-Palestine protests were to be banned for “risks to public order in the current context”.

Updated: October 18, 2023, 4:21 PM