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Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in central Paris on Thursday in defiance of a controversial new ban on pro-Palestinian rallies in the country.
French police and members of the gendarmerie worked to disperse the crowds with tear gas and water cannons, as visuals showed.
The ban had been announced earlier in the day, according to a message sent by French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin to the country’s police, citing concerns about public order.
“Pro-Palestinian demonstrations must be prohibited because they are likely to generate disturbances to the public order,” said the minister. He added that any organization of such protests will lead to arrests.
Darmanin also called on the police to protect all locations visited by French Jews such as synagogues and schools, and said any foreigner committing acts of anti-Semitism on French soil will be “immediately expelled”.
The ban follows a deadly and massive attack by militant group Hamas on Israel over the weekend that killed more than 1,200 people.
The Israeli government has retaliated with overwhelming force in the coastal enclave of Gaza, which Hamas controls. Airstrikes have killed over 1,500 people in the densely inhabited area, and Israeli officials have shut off supplies of water and fuel to the entire population.
As the conflict reaches unprecedented heights, protests in support of both Israelis and Palestinians have been seen around the world – some resulting in violent clashes.
French President Emmanuel Macron in his address to the nation on Thursday called on the French people to stay united, saying that “it is this shield of unity that will protect us from drifting away and from all hatred.”
French riot police disperse demonstrators in Paris on October 12, 2023.Ibrahim Ezzat/Anadolu/Getty Images
Protestors chant as they gather at Place de la Republique on October 12, 2023.Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images
Demonstrators in the historic Place de la Republique on Thursday whistled, clapped, and chanted in slogans in French including “We are all Palestinian” and “Palestine will live, Palestine will prevail.”
The ban on pro-Palestinian rallies is “not normal under the rule of law,” one attendee named Ryan told Reuters.
“In France, the great country that they say France is, you cannot demonstrate as is your right, freely. Unfortunately, freedom is no longer here, and we are forced to defy French law, as one would say, and demonstrate to show the truth,” he added.
Another protester described the ban as a “great injustice” and told Reuters that he had been fined 135 euros (roughly $140) for wearing the keffiyeh, a traditional Palestinian scarf.
France is one of a number of European nations, including the United Kingdom and Germany, where security measures have been stepped up amid fears of reprisals against members of the Jewish communities.