INTERIOR minister Bernard Cazeneuve today condemned the “intolerable” and “anti-Semitic” violence that erupted in Paris over the weekend, as pro-Palestinian protesters defied a ban on their demonstrations.
He was speaking as he visited Sarcelles, a suburb in the north of the city, which yesterday was the scene of a second illegal march against Israeli attacks on Gaza.
Sunday afternoon’s banned protest ended in violence when a group of protesters - some armed with iron bars and clubs, according to reports - went on the rampage, targeting shops and cars and attacking police, who responded by firing rubber bullets.
A Jewish delicatessen near a synagogue was torched, and protesters also tried to set fire to Garges railway station and others attacked a bank.
Several shops were looted. Three people were arrested as they tried to take advantage of the chaos to rob a tabac, while a number of journalists reporting on the trouble at the scene were attacked.
In total, 18 rioters were arrested. Eleven were still in custody this morning, according to Le Figaro, including four minors
Authorities in Paris had earlier banned pro-Palestinian demonstrations, after previous protests earlier in the week descended into violence, and two Paris synagogues had been targeted.
Mr Cazaneuve defended the decision not to allow the marches to go ahead. He said: “It was not the banning of the marches that led to the violence, it was the violence that led to the banning of the marches.”
His comments echoed those of his colleagues in government.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls denounced a "new form of anti-Semitism" on the Internet that he said was spreading among youth in working-class areas.
"France will not allow provocations to feed ... conflicts between communities," he said in a speech.
Meanwhile, President Francois Hollande said France "will tolerate no act, no words that could give rise to anti-Semitism".
On Saturday afternoon, cars were set alight and demonstrators threw rocks and other objects in Barbès, another suburb of northern Paris. Police in riot gear responded with volleys of tear gas and baton-charges.
A total 44 protesters were arrested, and 21 officers were injured during several hours of skirmishes. Nineteen of those detained on Saturday were still in custody last night.
About 3,000 demonstrators had gathered in defiance of the ban. They were met by 1,500 police officers in riot gear.
One protester told France 24: “France is the only country that has banned a pro-Palestinian demonstration. I came today to defy this unfair and illegitimate ban.”
Protesters eventually made their way to the Sacré-Coeur basilica, where they displayed pro-Palestinian banners before gradually dispersing.
Meanwhile, authorised demonstrations passed off peacefully on Saturday in around 15 towns and cities across France.