French Police Crack Down on Pro-Palestinian University Protests

French police have intervened in multiple university protests, targeting students with terrorism charges for expressing solidarity with Gaza. At least 626 prosecutions are underway, with politicians and activists facing police interviews or suspended prison sentences.

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Mahnoor Jehangir
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French Police Crack Down on Pro-Palestinian University Protests

French Police Crack Down on Pro-Palestinian University Protests

Since October 7, the pro-Palestinian movement in France has faced increasing criminalization, with police intervening in multiple university protests across the country. Students in Paris, Lyon, Montpellier, and Rennes are defying police attempts to break up university occupations and are being targeted with terrorism charges for expressing solidarity with Gaza.

Why this matters: The criminalization of pro-Palestinian protests in France has significant implications for freedom of expression and the right to protest, setting a dangerous precedent for democratic values. As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to escalate, the suppression of dissenting voices can have far-reaching consequences for international relations and global human rights.

On Thursday, police dislodged around 60 students who occupied part of their campus at Sciences Po in Paris in solidarity with Gaza. Student unions at the Sorbonne University also held a protest on Pantheon Square, defying a police ban, which gathered around 100 students. Two students, Romain and Manal, emphasized the need for broad active opposition to the Gaza genocide, stating, "Our goal is to make the Palestinian people and their suffering visible. We can't let certain actions in the world go unnoticed. We have to say that we do not agree."

At least 626 prosecutions on charges of apologetics for terrorism are underway in France, with several politicians and activists being summoned for police interviews or receiving suspended prison sentences. LFI leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon saw his meetings in defense of Jean-Paul Delescaut, a General Confederation of Labour (CGT) union official, banned by Lille University and then several other universities. Mohamed Makni, the Socialist Party deputy mayor of Echirolles, received a four-month suspended prison sentence for tweeting that the October 7 Palestinian uprising was an act of resistance against a fascist Israeli state.

The French protests are taking place against a backdrop of mass protests internationally, including in the United States, Britain, Australia, and France, against the Gaza genocide perpetrated by the Israeli state with the support of NATO imperialist powers. The Netanyahu government is preparing an assault on Rafah, where more than half of Gaza's population (around 1.5 million people) have fled. Governments are launching a systematic campaign of repression and slander, claiming protests against the Gaza genocide are driven by antisemitism.

The increasing criminalizationof the pro-Palestinian movement in France has sparked concerns about the erosion of freedom of expression. Mathilde Panot, the president of the radical left La France Insoumise (LFI) group in the National Assembly, was questioned by detectives on April 30, 2024, over accusations of being an apologist for terrorism due to a press statement she issued following the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, 2023. Panot has warned about the emergence of a new "thought police" and the country's slide towards authoritarianism.

Despite police efforts to suppress the protests, French university students remain defiant in their solidarity with Gaza. Emmy, a student union official, stated, "We are gathering to show that the students are against the genocide in Gaza, but also that we are demanding answers from our government." As the Israeli military offensive continues, with over 34,000 Palestinians killed according to Gaza's health ministry, the pro-Palestinian movement in France faces an uphill battle against increasing criminalization and repression.

Key Takeaways

  • French police are cracking down on pro-Palestinian university protests, with terrorism charges filed against students.
  • At least 626 prosecutions for "apologetics for terrorism" are underway, targeting politicians and activists.
  • Students in Paris, Lyon, Montpellier, and Rennes are defying police attempts to break up university occupations.
  • The criminalization of pro-Palestinian protests has sparked concerns about erosion of freedom of expression in France.
  • Mass protests against the Gaza genocide are taking place internationally, despite governments' attempts to suppress dissent.