Socialist Worker

Anti-racists in France defy protest ban

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2480

As the French state locks down following last week’s attacks in Paris, protesters have refused to be silenced. Some have already begun to defy its bans on demonstrations.

Some 700 Anti-racists and migrants gathered in the Place de la Bastille Square in Paris this afternoon,Sunday, for a long-planned demonstration in support of refugees.

Many of them marched in defiance of the ban.

Local police authorities last week warned organisers that they must call it off or risk up to six months in prison. But a number of groups vowed to press on.

Activist Vanina Guidicelli told Socialist Worker, “A lot of people were afraid to come. But what's positive is that we're here rallying together despite the ban.”

Other demonstrations took place in cities where bans hadn’t been implemented over the weekend.

Anti-racists marched in support of refugees in the southern city of Marseille last night,Saturday. Marchers on a 15,000-strong demonstration in Toulouse in memory of those killed raised slogans against war and racism.

But the Paris demonstration was the first to go ahead in defiance of a ban.

Three of the six MPs who voted against extending the state of emergency to three months on Thursday of last week sent messages of support.

The state of emergency has already brought widespread repression.

Police carried out hundreds of searches across France last week, along with arrests and curfews. The state of emergency has allowed them to shortcut the normal procedure of getting authorisation.

In Paris it saw charity Les Restos Du Coeur forced to stop its distribution of free meals untilFriday.

A demonstration against violence towards women planned yesterday was called off. This was supposedly about public safety.

But Vanina said, "At the same time the Christmas market is opening, and the government is encouraging people to go to gatherings in memory of those killed in the attacks. It shows that these bans are political."

Test

A key test will be the United Nations Cop21 summit on climate change—a diplomatic priority for the French state.

Hundreds of thousands of people had planned to march on Sunday of next week as the summit starts and hold various actions on Saturday 12 December as it finishes.

But on Thursday prime minister Manuel Valls confirmed a ban on all demonstrations in public places during the summit.

Organisers vowed to find “another way of mobilising” and argued that this made demonstrations in other cities on 29 November even more important. Some called for defying the ban.

Thousands have pledged online to rally in the Place de la Republique square on 29 November, following a call by direct action collective The Disobedient.

Disobedient activist Benjamin told Socialist Worker, “We were all planning to protest, and the reasons for doing so haven’t changed since then.

“A climate catastrophe would still create many victims—and this still needs to be contested at the summit.”

He added, “Many people will be afraid, and if they stay at home that’s understandable and legitimate. But we need to overcome that fear. We think there will be many of us in the square on the day.”

Other organisations have since backed the call, and suggested actions to defy or get around the ban on 12 December.

The CGT union federation has also called a day of action on Wednesday 2 December.

It issued a statement slamming Hollande’s actions since the attacks—and vowing there would be no “social truce” between workers and bosses and their government.

Vanina said, “On today's rally, as well slogans against racist laws and in support of refugees there are placards against the state of emergency and for the right to protest.

“It's taken on that dimension and that's important for the weeks ahead. It's sending a message that we can continue to resist.”


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