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Mass demonstrations in france

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Mass demonstrations in France against the Israeli assault on Gaza

By Senthooran Ravee, Stephane Hugues and Antoine Lerougetel
12 January 2009

At the Place de la BastilleThe revulsion felt worldwide against the indiscriminate massacre of the people of Gaza by Israel was expressed in France by mass demonstrations Saturday in 90 cities and towns. At a conservative police estimate of 123,000 (30,000 in Paris and 93,000 in the rest of France), they far surpassed the already large mobilisations of January 3, when 21,000 demonstrated in Paris.

Organisers claimed over 100,000 in the capital January 10. News agencies spoke of “a human tide.” A force of 3,800 police officers was on duty to prevent a repetition of incidents after the January 3 demonstration.

Organised by the National Collective for a Just and Enduring Peace between Palestinians and Israelis, the protests were supported by the NPA (the New Anti-capitalist Party of Olivier Besancenot), the Communist Party, the Independent Workers’ Party (formerly the Workers Party of Pierre Lambert) and the Greens, as well as by the CGT (General Confederation of Labour), the FSU teachers union, the UNEF students union and Palestinian, Arab and Muslim organisations.

Banner in background reads, "Israel terrorist – Europe accomplice"All these organisations put forward a policy of pressurizing French, European and US imperialism to intervene and halt the massacre and propose nationalist, two-state solutions to the Palestinian tragedy.

Marie-George Buffet of the Communist Party, marching at the head of the Paris demonstration, told the press, “The European Union must be told: ‘You have the means to stop this war, to intervene in the UN for the setting up of an international protection force and for political discussions to start again.”

Alongside her, in the same vein, Olivier Besancenot, speaking for the NPA, declared, “It is important to show to the entire planet that there are other positions in France than that of Nicolas Sarkozy and that the international community is particularly hypocritical in voting resolutions to ease their conscience and never putting them into practice because to do so the Western governments, including France, would have to incur the anger of the Israeli government.”

Besancenot is quickly finding his place in the official left hierarchy, which represents no challenge whatsoever to the French ruling elite.

Riot police and gendarmerie were on every side street with body armour and lorries with grills attached for pushing the crowd. There were police at every Metro station entrance in constant radio contact, probably with orders to close the Metro entrances in case of a confrontation with youth. Some of the riot cops in body armour were videotaping the protest march.

The march started off with only the hardcore members and supporters from the different parties and organizations, but then from about 3.45pm there was a surge of people that filled the whole street. There were many youth from the working class suburbs and whole families including babies and the elderly. Some youth burned American and Israeli flags when they got close to the beginning of the march.

Many immigrant and French workers came independently of the organisers to express their bitter anger at Sarkozy’s support for Israel. Young people were in the majority and there was a strong presence of immigrant girls and women.

 Banner reads, "Palestinian resistance"Near the Place de la Bastille, some protesters sat down and sang songs in sympathy with the Palestinian people. A man climbed onto the Bastille fountain and brandished a banner proclaiming, “Arab governments, enough cowardice, stop collaborating!” One speaker shouted: “This place is the symbol of the French Revolution, it gave us justice and equality and fraternity. In this historical place, we demand the same for the Palestinian people.”

Other banners proclaimed “Israel murderer, Sarkozy complicit,” “Rama Yade [the French minister for human rights]: where are Gaza’s human rights?,” “Bush―Olmert murderers, Obama―Sarkozy accomplices!,” “Palestinians, Afghans, Iraqis, immigrants: the same enemy, the same fight,” “The enemy of the Palestinians is in our country: he’s Bush’s friend Monsieur Sarkozy!”

Women protestors brought baby dolls with the words, “Israel kills the children of Gaza” printed on them. Referring to the Warsaw Ghetto a placard read, “Warsaw, Gaza the same massacre, the same executioners” and “Stop the Holocaust in Gaza.”

Near the Opera Bastille a woman demonstrator stood up on its steps holding a homemade placard inscribed with red letters: “The day will come when you will have to pay for your war crimes.” Protestors brought the photos of young victims of the Israeli bombardment.