Defying Ban on Demonstration, pro-Palestinians Burn Israeli Flags in Paris

3,000 protesters take to streets of French capital; police on alert for more clashes at planned rally and possible showdown with Jewish Defense League.

Shirli Sitbon.
Shirli Sitbon
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Pro-Palestinian protesters burn an Israeli flag during a demonstration against violence in the Gaza strip, July 19, 2014.
Pro-Palestinian protesters burn an Israeli flag during a demonstration against violence in the Gaza strip, July 19, 2014.Credit: Reuters
Shirli Sitbon.
Shirli Sitbon

To the up to 4,000 pro-Palestinians who protested in Paris this weekend, there was no question they had to defy the authorities' ban against their demonstration. Their appeal against the decision had been turned down by a court on Friday, but they showed up as planned outside Barbès metro station in the north of the French capital.

“Banning a protest is anti-democratic and outrageous. France is an embarrassment to the world. Israel is killing children in Gaza and authorities say we can’t protest?” said Imen who was one of the women leading the march. “what counts is that we defend the children of Gaza not a court ruling!”

“I have double motivation now. I’m here for Palestine and to protest against the State’s decision,” said Sylvain from the NPA, the New Anti-Capitalistic Party, the only political party that took part in the protest. “This is obviously a political decision.”

“Yesterday, they stopped us from going to Dieudonné’s shows, today we can’t protest. What will it be tomorrow?” said Cyril Achouri.

At first, protesters remained gathered outside the metro station, shouting at police who blocked the avenue they planned to take to reach central Paris.

Several men climbed on a roof burning several Israeli flags, waiving Palestinian ones and black flags saying ‘there’s only one god and Mohammad is his prophet’.

Several activists and carried fake bodies draped in white sheets and red paint, resembling the bodies in shrouds of the four Palestinian boys killed on the beach.

“We must show that as Muslims, we’re all united,” said Abdelwahab, a man holding an Algerian flag.

Protesters were angered by President François Hollande’s statements since the unrest began. They shouted “Israel murderer, Hollande accomplice,” saying he has not only sided with Israel but also tried to mussel them.

“What do you want, this country is Jewish,” said a man trying to drive past the rally.

Police had banned the protest after a previous one last Sunday ended in clashes in front of two synagogues, where protesters confronted Jewish Defense League activists. Hundreds of men were seen running down the protest route shouting “Allah Akbar.”

But some of the pro-Palestinians taking part in Saturday’s protest had also been in the previous one and they accused the Jewish Defense League of provoking them.

“They endangered their own community but inviting us to the synagogue with Tweets. The JDL shouldn’t sleep sound! We’ll come back and get them!” Said Cyril Achouri. “But some Jews are ok. Some demonstrate with us. Those who don’t are also entitled to their opinion.”

Since police blocked the protest route, people defied security forces by walking in another direction which was clear. They separated into several groups and ran through the streets chanting “Israel get out, Gaza isn’t yours,” “Israel murderer,” and dozens of them “Allah akbar.”

But police then blocked several streets and protesters had to go back. On group of several of up to 2000 people gathered in an intersection and defied police until they started firing tear gas at the crowd. Several dozen men kept defying security forces while others, left the area.

Paris police told Haaretz before the demonstration they banned it “because the situation is too tense, some have called for a rematch after Sunday’s clashes. There’s a risk of public disorder. But other pro-Palestinian protests are authorized.”

The French are divided on whether protests should be banned. Jews too, wondered whether this would anger protesters even more. Protesters turned upside down cars, damaged property. Several people were wounded and 30 were arrested.

Asked whether banning the protest could exacerbate the situation, Jewish Consistoire leader Joel Mergui said, “History will tell us. Police evaluate the risks and take decisions. In any case we can’t have new incidents like the ones we had last week outside 2 synagogues. I never thought I’d see so many people attacking synagogues without even trying to hide themselves. But we must remember that although this is unprecedented it doesn’t compare with the real tragedies of Toulouse – where Jewish children were killed.”

Pro-Palestinian protesters vowed to participate in another banned protest due to take place on Sunday in Northern Paris suburb, Sarcelles, where Jewish Defense League members said they’d wait outside the synagogue.

Man with Palestinian flag placard, as protesters gather in Paris, France, July 19, 2014.Credit: AFP

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