PARIS (JTA) – A large pro-Palestinian protest in the heart of the high-end shopping district in Paris turned violent.
A pro-Palestinian umbrella group, including France’s Communist Party, led more than 21,000 demonstrators, according to reports, in a march Saturday afternoon protesting Israel’s military actions over the past week in the Gaza Strip. Police blocked the demonstrators from reaching their planned final destination, the Israeli Embassy.
Protesters set cars on fire, and several luxury store windows were smashed and looted.
French riot police clashed with roughly 400 to 500 youth, according to police. The youth, wearing Palestinian flags and kaffiyehs, threw chairs and other objects at police barricades. Police responded with tear gas bombs.
While the youth withdrew from advancing police, many broke car windows, the glass protecting bus stop shelters and the windows of one bus abandoned by its driver. Police detained some 20 protesters before calm was restored. Families with young children and elderly women who had participated in the march fled in fear.
Anti-Israel, anti-French and anti-American slogans could be heard throughout the rally. France and its president, Nicolas Sarkozy, were dubbed Israel’s "accomplices."
Signs and flags compared the Star of David to a swastika. As many as 50 demonstrators carried several mannequins wrapped in bloody sheets above Palestinian flags. Protesters repeatedly called "Israel Assassin" and "Zionists, you are the terrorists."
The crowd booed as it passed a photo of France’s first lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, on the cover of a French Jewish publication, The Jewish Tribune.
Tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian protests took place simultaneously in other major French cities.