06 January 2009

Pro-Palestine Protest in Paris

Last Saturday there was a sizable (twenty to twenty-five thousand people according to various counts) protest in support of Palestine and, often, against Israel. Esther and I decided to go to see what there was to see. Thankfully I brought my camera as the situation, tense throughout, degraded considerably at the end.

The march started at Place de la République and progressed down the Grands Boulevards to Place St. Augustin.

This was a surprising route for any protest march as it passes directly in front of the "Grands Magasins", major banks, and plenty of very expensive real estate. Normally, protests (of which there are many) are routed towards more modest districts.

The anger towards Israel was evident in the crowd.

The chant "Israel, Assassin!" was popular, as was the swastika/Star of David equivalence.

Protesters carried pictures of dead and injured Palestinian children and adults, as well as at least one mock dead child.

I was surprised to see several Hezbollah flags on display. Paris has a large Lebanese population and apparently a certain number of supporters of the paramilitary organization.

The advertisement in the background for the Tribune Juive (Jewish Tribune, a magazine for the French Jewish commonity) featured Carla Bruni, the wife of President Sarkozy, and was not particularly popular with the protesters.

Further down the route, slogans began to be spray-painted on many different surfaces.

There was an interesting conflation of causes as the flag of Hezbollah (literally, "the party of God") came into close proximity with the flag and secretary general of the PCF (Parti Communiste Français, not exactly the party of God).

As we got closer to the Grands Magasins and some larger bank branches, the police presence visibly increased.

Eventually we arrived at Place St. Augustin, the scheduled end of the march.

A young man carried the flag of Hamas as others prayed. Things started off rather peacefully.

Unfortunately, trouble-makers in the crowd had other ideas for how to end things. They started by climbing scaffolding attached to a building.

This led to tear gas.

Which, in turn, led to fire set by the protesters.

Smoke rose over the square.

Riot police began to advance, passing in front of the Saint Augustine Church, confining the protesters and forcing them out of the square.

We learned that the fuel for the fire was the French classic: a car that had the bad luck of being parked in the wrong place at the wrong time.

More police arrived in full riot gear. They needed to clear the area to allow the firefighters to arrive safely.

Ultimately the firefighters made it through...

...though it was a bit late for the car.

Meanwhile, other cars were overturned and burned.

The square was left strewn with banners and ashes.

Full album:

Palestine Protest in Paris


  1. Thanks for the photographs-I hadn't heard anything about this here. As you might have guessed, I'm sympathetic with the victims of oppression and aggression on both sides of the conflict, and, had I been there, I might have marched. The degree of stupidity demonstrated by some protesters always astounds me, though. Firstly, any time you invoke the Nazis to describe any opponent (particularly their primary victims) besides Nazis you have lost the argument for yourself. Bush may be a horrendous head of state, but he's a neo-con, not a Nazi. Israel has certainly committed a great deal of atrocities and some systematic human rights abuses (much as the US, France, England, etc.) which merit greater international attention. The condemnation of all things Jewish and Israeli, though, is asinine-much like protesting US foreign policy in front of a McDonalds. Such stances push moderate and progressive Jews and Israelis into positions where they are essentially supposed to reject their cultures to avoid being lumped in with the extreme right. Actions and gestures against the very people you should be encouraging is hardly constructive. Also, any time violence or destruction/defacing of property is included in protests all credibility is lost and some of the worst stereotypes in the minds of bigoted opponents are strengthened ('We performed this bombing in protest of the Danish cartoons implying that Muslims are violent'). How, exactly, will burning a car in Paris help to get Israeli soldiers out of Gaza? Thanks again for the photos. I'm looking forward to the ones from Detroit.

  2. Anonymous1:27 AM

    Great pictures and "right-to-the-point" comments.


  3. interesting photos. The US needs to stop taking sides over the conflict and cut military aid to Israel for anything to change. As Noami Klein says:

    "economic sanctions are the most effective tool in the nonviolent arsenal"

    for anything to change both sides need to understand that their is no military resolution to a political conflict. The US needs to take this stance and rethink the aid they send to Israel. In place of bombs and planes send food and medicine.