Parisians protest against Islamophobia amid Gaza war tensions

French court allows demonstration to go ahead, overruling police ban that cited risk of antisemitic hate crimes and violence

Demonstrators hold a banner reading 'Stop racism, stop Islamophobia,' during a protest in Paris on April 21, 2024. (Alain Jocard/AFP)
Demonstrators hold a banner reading 'Stop racism, stop Islamophobia,' during a protest in Paris on April 21, 2024. (Alain Jocard/AFP)

A crowd of around 2,000 people protested in Paris against racism, Islamophobia and violence against children on Sunday after a court allowed their demonstration to go ahead.

Bans on protests have been more frequent in France in recent months, due to tensions stirred by the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. In a country that is home to large Muslim and Jewish communities, authorities have banned many pro-Palestinian demonstrations and public gatherings, citing the risk of antisemitic hate crimes and violence.

On Sunday, the protesters marched peacefully from the multi-ethnic Barbes neighborhood toward Place de la Republique. Many chanted slogans remembering Nahel, a 17-year-old of North African descent who was fatally shot during a police traffic stop last year.

Paris police chief Laurent Nunez told broadcaster BFM TV that he initially chose to ban the march because, in announcing the protest, the organizers had likened French police violence to the war in Gaza, and he felt the event could cause a threat to public order.

That argument was rejected by Paris’s administrative court in a fast-tracked decision.

“Fighting and mobilizing for the protection of all children is normal, it should be,” said Yessa Belkgodja, one of the organizers of the march, welcoming the court’s decision.

Demonstrators hold a banner reading, ‘Gaza Stop,’ during a pro-Palestinian protest in Paris on April 21, 2024. (Antonin Utz/AFP)

“If we are banned from protesting, it means we don’t have the right to express ourselves in France… We are being monitored on social media. That’s enough, leave us alone,” said Yamina Ayad, a retiree who was wrapped in the Palestine flag.

A similar ban on a pro-Palestinian protest in Paris happened in 2021 during a weekslong conflict between Israel and Gaza-based terrorists. At the time, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin explained his reasoning for wanting to ban the protest based on violent demonstrations in 2014.

Several demonstrations took place in France in July 2014 to denounce Israel during the war then raging in Gaza. On July 19, 2014, several thousand protesters defied a ban on a demonstration at Barbes and the rally rapidly degenerated into violent clashes that lasted for hours.

A pro-Palestinian protester displays a burning Israeli flag during a demonstration at the Place de la Republique in Paris, France, July 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Benjamin Girette)

In January, the Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF) reported that antisemitic acts in France nearly quadrupled since the October 7 Hamas massacre in southern Israel, in which close to 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were slain, and 253 were kidnapped to Gaza.

Citing figures from the French interior ministry and a French-Jewish security watchdog, CRIF said there were 1,676 antisemitic acts in 2023 compared to 436 the year prior, with nearly 60 percent of those acts being attacks involving physical violence threatening words or menacing gestures.

France is home to Europe’s largest Jewish community and the largest number of Muslims on the continent, although no precise figures are available as the country’s census does not include religious identity.

Most Popular
read more: