Thousands Join Paris’s First Authorized Pro-Palestinian Demo Since Hamas Attacks

REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
French labour unions and organisations call for peace and an immediate ceasefire in Gaza during a demonstration at Place de la Republique in Paris, France, October 22, 2023.

PARIS (Reuters) – Thousands of people waving Palestinian flags and chanting “Gaza, Paris is with you” gathered on Sunday for the first pro-Palestinian demonstration allowed by police in the French capital since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.

Around 15,000 people turned out at the Place de la Republique, according to police figures, to express solidarity with Palestinians and call for a ceasefire as the death toll from Israeli strikes in Gaza rose to more than 4,700.

“We are here to defend the freedom (of) the people of Palestine, especially with what’s happening in Gaza – it’s unacceptable,” said Noureddine Mansour, a protester present at the Paris rally.

A similar protest in Brussels drew around 12,000, Belgian police said.

French police said the Paris protest was authorized, unlike others, because a declaration by organizers condemned the Oct. 7 attacks, which killed 1,400 people.

On Thursday, a protest was authorized at the last minute after a Paris court overturned the police decision to ban it.

In the last few days, other protests have been authorized in cities across France, after France’s highest administrative court ruled that pro-Palestinian protests were to be banned on a case-by-case basis, not systematically as an earlier instruction by the French interior minister had suggested.

The protest in Paris was called by the collective “National Collective for a sustainable and just peace between Palestinians and Israelis,” made up of more than 40 organizations, including left-wing party France Unbowed, the CGT trade union and the organization “France Palestine Solidarity.”

At a peace summit in Cairo on Saturday, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said Israel had a right to self-defense and must respect international law, and that a humanitarian corridor to Gaza was necessary and could lead to a ceasefire.

In Brussels, thousands marched through the streets, waving Palestinian flags and chanting “Free Palestine” before gathering outside the European Commission’s headquarters.