Looting in Paris as Europeans protest Gaza conflict
By Juliette Montesse and Sim Sim Wissgott, AFP
July 22, 2014, 12:02 am TWN
SARCELLES, France--A French rally against the deadly Israeli offensive in Gaza once again descended into chaos Sunday as protesters looted shops and riot police lobbed tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowds.
The demonstration in the northern Paris suburb of Sarcelles is the third to have deteriorated in the space of eight days in a country that counts the largest Muslim population in Western Europe and a huge Jewish community.
A decision by authorities to ban protests in areas deemed too sensitive has also garnered controversy as they took place anyway and turned violent, while authorized ones elsewhere in the country — as well as in other cities across Europe — were peaceful.
From Vienna to Stockholm and on to Amsterdam, thousands rallied on Sunday to oppose Israel's offensive, which has left more than 400 Palestinians and 20 Israelis dead.
Though patrolled by police, few incidents were reported in those demonstrations.
"We're not anti-Semites, we're here for the people. We call on Europeans and Americans to finally do something," organizers of the 11,000-strong march in Vienna said.
But in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles — sometimes nicknamed "little Jerusalem" for its large community of Sephardic Jews — a banned but orderly demonstration of several hundred descended into chaos when dozens of youth — some of them masked — set fire to bins and lit firecrackers and smoke bombs.
Looters then began raiding shops, wrecking a funeral home and destroying its front window as several protesters shouted: "F**k Israel!"
Access to Synagogue Blocked
Others raided a drugstore which caught fire. Young girls grabbed baby milk inside.
"We're going to get the cash register," one person shouted, his voice drowned by the noise of a police helicopter overhead and the alarm of a nearby pizzeria.
Security forces then fired rubber bullets in the direction of the looters.
Not far away, riot police blocked access to the local synagogue, where a group of young men stood armed with clubs and iron bars — one of them flying an Israeli flag.
The deadly bombing of Gaza has brought to light deep divides within French society — a Jewish community increasingly concerned over anti-Semitism, a growing radical Islamic fringe, and far-left activists whose opposition to Israeli policies sometimes verges on anti-Semitism.