Brussels (Brussels Morning) The Paris police have banned a Palestinian solidarity rally that was planned for Saturday in the French capital, fearing a repeat of clashes that took place when a similar rally was held in 2014, the last time Israeli forces and Hamas exchanged fire, France24 reported.
Activists originally called for a protest to be held in the Barbes district of Northern Paris, to call attention to Israel’s use of force in the Gaza Strip as a disproportionate response to the rocket attacks launched by the militant Palestinian group Hamas on Israeli cities.
“I have asked the Paris police chief to ban the protests on Saturday linked to the recent tensions in the Middle East”, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said in a Twitter post. “Serious disturbances to the public order were seen in 2014”, he recalled. Darmanin also urged police chiefs in other French cities to remain vigilant during local demonstrations.
Several thousand protesters defied a ban on demonstration at Barbes in 2014, and the mass rally quickly devolved into violent clashes with the security forces, lasting for hours.
Tensions were raised in France on Wednesday, when Paris police detained Bertrand Heilbronn, head of the French Palestinian rights advocacy group, Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS).
The 71-year old activist was apprehended near the Foreign Ministry building and held for several hours before being released. AFPS claimed he was arrested after meeting with a Foreign Ministry advisor as part of a delegation that included members of parliament and trade union representatives.
A demonstration was planned in front of the Foreign Ministry and scheduled for 4pm local time, but the decision to ban it was only announced three hours prior, with many participants already on their way. Heilbronn’s arrest sparked outrage from a number of left-wing activists and political figures, including the leader of the France Unbowed party, Jean-Luc Mélenchon.