French ban on pro-Palestinian protests seen as ineffective, embarrassing
Amnesty International today Saturday issued a stern rebuke to France’s Socialist government for banning a pro-Palestine demonstration.
The attack by the human rights group has caused huge embarrassment as Paris hosts Gaza peace talks attended by US Secretary of State John Kerry and numerous foreign ministers, including the UK’s Philip Hammond.
It came as 1,500 riot police flooded the city as protestors pledged to take to the streets anyway.
Despite a legal ban confirmed in the courts on Friday night, thousands will gather to express their outrage at the on-going slaughter accompanying Israel’s air and ground offensive in the Middle East.
Amnesty, the human rights group with a multi-million membership, says it is concerned about ‘the threat in France to the fundamental right of freedom of peaceful assembly.’
Spokesman Genevieve Garrigos said the ban appeared to be an admission by France that it could not control its own people, and that the "peaceful intentions" of the vast majority of protestors should be respected.
A banned pro-Palestine march exploded into violence in Paris last Saturday, while one which was allowed on Wednesday involving around 15,000 people was entirely peaceful.
Despite this, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said he wanted to "prevent more hate from spilling out on the streets of Paris," adding: "I urge the organisers to abandon the event on Saturday."
But Omar Alsoumi, a lawyer involved in the protest, said: "The government is trying to ban a fundamental right."
Olivier Besancenot, a former presidential candidate and leader of the new anti-capitalist party, called on "all democratic forces, political, trade unions and associations to protest against the ban and to converge on" the Place de la Republique, where the demonstration will take place.
Israel's offensive in Gaza has killed over 950 Palestinians, including numerous children, and 37 Israelis, the vast majority soldiers.
The conflict has stirred up huge passions in France - home to the largest Muslim and Jewish communities in Western Europe.
Jews have complained about synagogues being targeted, while Muslims says that pro-Palestine supporters are deliberately being demonised as anti-Semites.
Vigilantes from a group called the Jewish Defence League (LDJ) have demonstrators into fights, while their opponents have burned Israeli flags and chanted ‘Israel – murderer’.
There are more than five million Muslims in the country, and half a million Jews, many of them living in Paris.