Paris in Flames as Pro-Palestinian Rioters Clash with Police
Despite a first-of-its-kind-in-Europe ban on demonstrations in Paris, pro-Palestinian protestors gathered to demonstrate against Israel on Saturday. When police tried to break up the protest, rioters threw rocks and other debris while chanting "Israel, assassin."
Protests in Paris were banned following the demonstration last weekend that ended up threatening two synagogues.
The government of President Hollande has come under fire for the ban, as far-left groups accused Hollande of favoring Israel while far-right groups criticized him for policies they say encourage lawlessness among immigrants.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
The clashes underscore a dilemma facing France's Socialist government. President François Hollande has faced searing criticism in France—home to Europe's biggest Muslim minority—for what pro-Palestinian groups say is his failure to take a stand against Israel's incursions in the Gaza strip.
At the same time, Mr. Hollande is under pressure from even broader swaths of the French public, which blames minorities and immigrants for a perceived rise in violent crime and delinquency. The far-right National Front is garnering support by accusing Mr. Hollande's ranks of being soft on crime and illegal immigration.
Saturday's clashes occurred at the tail end of a large rally that had been called by several French political organizations, including the far-left New Anticapitalist Party, despite a French government ban.
The rally had been banned on Friday after government officials expressed concern that it could turn violent. Last Sunday, a similar rally in Paris sought to steer the march toward two synagogues and clashed with riot police, and eight arrests.
Earlier Saturday, French President François Hollande justified the decision to ban the rally at a news conference, saying groups have other ways to express themselves. "Those who want at any cost to protest will be held accountable," he told TV cameras.
Nevertheless, French TV showed a large number of protesters showing up at 3 p.m., chanting and waving Palestinian flags under raised metro tracks. French television estimated between several hundred and several thousand people attended the rally at its peak, but the police official said the police didn't immediately have any estimate.
The tension between the Muslim and Jewish populations in France has been building for years, which has led to many violent attacks. Reuters reports that "more Jews left France for Israel than at any other time since the Jewish state was created in 1948, with many citing rising anti-Semitism as a factor."
Saturday's demonstrations are not going to improve the situation.