Police fire tear gas on banned pro-Palestine march in Paris as protests sweep Europe
Riot police fired tear gas on defiant protesters in Paris who were supporting Palestinians in the Gaza Strip despite a ban on demonstrations in the French capital.
Marches in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were being held Saturday in a dozen French cities, but the focus was on Paris, where riot police got ready as organizers said they would defy a ban on the protest.
Anger over the Israeli offensive in Gaza drew protests across Europe, with riot police resorting to using tear gas and water cannons on the streets of Paris.
Thousands of people marched peacefully in other cities in France and elsewhere in Europe — including in London, Rome, Brussels, and Madrid — to highlight the plight of the Palestinians.
In the French capital, riot police played cat-and-mouse with security forces in the city’s northern neighbourhoods after their starting point for a planned march was blocked.
Paris Police Chief Didier Lallement had ordered 4,200 security forces into the streets and closed shops around the starting point for the march in a working-class neighborhood after an administrative court confirmed the ban due to fears of violence.
Authorities used the fact that a banned July 2014 pro-Palestinian protest In Paris against an Israeli offensive in Gaza degenerated into violence to justify the order to ban the march.
Protesters shifted from neighbourhood to neighbourhood in Paris as police closed in on them, sometimes with tear gas and water cannons, and police said 44 people were arrested. In a lengthy standoff, protesters pelted a line of security forces with projectiles before police pushed them to the edge of northern Paris.
Thousands also marched on the Israeli Embassy in London to protest Israel’s attacks, which included an airstrike that flattened a 12-story building in Gaza that housed media outlets, including the Associated Press.
Demonstrators chanting “Free Palestine!” marched through London’s Hyde Park and gathered outside the embassy gates, watched by a large number of police. Organizers demanded that the British government stop its military and financial support to Israel.
Husam Zumlot, head of the Palestinian mission to the UK, told the crowd that “this time is different”.
“This time we will not be denied anymore. We are united. We have had enough of oppression,” he said.
In the Netherlands, a few hundred people in The Hague braved the cold and rain to listen to speeches and wave Palestinian flags on a central square outside the Dutch parliament building.
On Friday evening, Dutch police briefly detained about 100 pro-Palestinian demonstrators in the city of Utrecht because they were not socially distancing.
Demonstrations were also held in several German cities and in Brussels, host to the European Union.
In Madrid, protesters chanted “This is not war, this is genocide!” in Spanish, with some people holding up homemade signs that read “USA Terrorist State” and “Muslim Lives Matter”.
In Berlin, police broke up a pro-Palestinian protest of 3,500 people for failure to comply with coronavirus distancing rules. Protesters responded by throwing stones, bottles, and fireworks.