France’s monarchist movement Action Francaise was cleared to hold a demonstration in Paris on Sunday after the courts overturned a police ban issued on orders from the interior ministry to crack down on far-right protests.
On Saturday about 350 of its members, some wearing masks and dressed in black, attended a symposium in the capital, “France in danger”, after a court decision overturned the ban issued the authorities.
The gathering took place under heavy police surveillance, according to an AFP reporter.
“The implementation of the order of the police prefect from May 12, 2023 is suspended,” said the Paris administrative court in a statement to AFP hours before the symposium.
However, the court rejected an appeal by Yvan Benedetti and his extreme far-right group The Nationalists, who were banned from holding a rally at the same time on Sunday.
Sunday’s gathering will honor Joan of Arc, who led the French to a famous victory over the English in the 15th century. He is respected by many far-right movements in France.
The police issued several prohibition orders on Friday, after Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin issued directives aimed at banning any gatherings “of the ultraright or extreme right”.
That comes after the controversy generated by a far-right white supremacist rally that was allowed to go ahead last weekend.
But as opposition deputies pointed out, police cleared the rally at a time when pan-bashing protests against President Emmanuel Macron over his unpopular pension reform were repeatedly blocked.
Politicians and activists have criticized what they say is the government’s double standards.
In issuing the bans this week, Paris police chief Laurent Nunez argued that far-right gatherings were a threat to public order because of possible clashes with radical left activists who staged and counter-demonstrations.
He cited a “particularly tense context” following the “controversy provoked by the demonstrations” last week in Paris.
In last week’s march, around 600 people – some wearing masks, which are banned by French law in public spaces – marched to commemorate the death of a fellow activist, Sebastien Deyzieu, on 1994.
But Action Francaise and the Nationalists appealed the bans this weekend on the grounds that they constitute a serious, unlawful violation of their fundamental state liberties.
According to Olivier Perceval, secretary general of Action Francaise, the rally honoring Joan of Arc has only been banned twice before: once by the Germans during the war, and the second time after the desecration of the Jewish cemetery in 1990.
The court, which overturned the ban, noted that Sunday’s rally did not in itself constitute an incitement to public unrest and recognized that it was a long-standing event in the group’s calendar.
Paris police banned six rallies in Paris over the weekend due to public order concerns.
Among them is one of the Yellow Vests movement, which in 2018 and 2019 shook the Macron administration in a series of large protests, before the Covid pandemic effectively shut down their activities.
Some of their activists defied the ban on Saturday, Paris police told AFP. Officials broke up the gathering and fined 62 people, they added.
Even before the legal change over the weekend, Interior Minister Gerard Darmanin’s move to prevent far-right rallies came in for criticism from some observers, who argued it was built on shaky legal grounds. which is fundamental.