Pro-Palestinian protesters clashed with police in Paris on Saturday as they defied a ban on a planned rally against violence in the Gaza strip. A Reuters photographer said demonstrators in northern Paris launched projectiles at riot police, who responded by firing teargas canisters and stun grenades.
Demonstrators also climbed on top of a building and burned an Israeli flag. At least one car was set on fire.
A police spokesman said that 38 demonstrators had been arrested by early evening and that the clashes were dying down.
However, dozens of police trucks were seen rolling into the narrow streets of the historically Jewish Marais neighborhood where French media said groups of protesters had assembled.
President Francois Hollande earlier said he had asked his interior minister to ban protests that could turn violent after demonstrators marched on two synagogues in Paris last weekend and clashed with riot police.
“That’s why I asked the interior minister, after an investigation, to ensure that such protests would not take place,” he told journalists during a visit to Chad.
In defiance of the ban, large crowds gathered in northern Paris chanting “Israel, assassin” until they were dispersed by tear gas.
Peaceful rallies were also held in more than a dozen other cities, from Lille in the north to Marseille in the south.
“This ban on demonstrations, which was decided at the last minute, actually increases the risk of public disorder,” the Greens Party said in a statement. “It’s a first in Europe.”
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve justified bans in Paris and the Mediterranean city of Nice by saying the security risk was too great, prompting outrage from left-wing and pro-Palestinian groups.
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius responded to criticism France was biased in favor of Israel, which sent ground forces in on Thursday after 10 days of air and naval barrages failed to stop rocket fire from Gaza.
“In no way does this mean that the French government has taken a position against the Palestinians,” he told journalists during a visit to Jordan.
Elsewhere in Europe, a man set off a security alert in Geneva when he stopped a tram to retrieve bags that included a book with a radical Islamist image in it, police said.
The alert coincided with a demonstration against Israel’s assault on Gaza that drew some 300 protesters to the front of the U.N. European headquarters in the Swiss city.
Thousands of protesters have gathered in London today to call for an end to Israeli military action in Gaza and “justice and freedom” for Palestine.
Up to 15,000 people are thought to have marched through the capital from Downing Street to the Israeli embassy in Kensington after Israel launched a ground invasion of Gaza on Thursday.
This was the latest and one of the more peaceful demonstrations as rallies take place across the globe in recent days.
Sarah Colborne, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said London has “already shown its outrage at Israel’s attacks on the mostly refugee population of Gaza, with people turning out in their thousands last week.
“Today’s national demonstration will give people from across the country the chance to say enough is enough, Israel’s siege of Gaza and its occupation of Palestinian land has to end now.
“People want justice and freedom for the Palestinians, and they will be voicing this in their thousands.”
Labour MP Diane Abbott was among the speakers to address protesters as they gathered in Whitehall.
“I am here to show solidarity with the people in Gaza,” she said.
“We call for an end to the occupation and justice for Palestinians.”
Pro Palestine supporters carried placards with the messages “Gaza, stop the massacre” and “stop Israel’s war crimes”.
Protesters arrived at the Israeli embassy but were met by a police blockade preventing them from getting near to the building.
A number of high-profile Palestine supporters addressed the crowd near to the embassy.
Organisers repeatedly told the crowds to spread out during the speeches over fears people were being crushed.
Two children were pulled over a barrier close to the stage and one organiser said 10 people had fainted in the crowd.
Respect MP George Galloway said nearly 300 passengers aboard the Malaysia Airlines MH17 flight had been killed “without a reason” by “fanatics”.
He went on: “The 300 Palestinians are completely ignored by the same newspapers, by the same television stations and by the same political leaders who are threatening sanctions and war against Russia but who are supporting, with weapons and money and diplomatic political and media support, the Israeli killers.
“In fact, if whoever fired that missile in Ukraine had fired it instead at the beach in Gaza, the media could have knocked off for an early lunch and saved themselves all of this work.
“Why the double standard? Why is the blood in Ukraine so much more noteworthy than the blood in Gaza?”
Addressing the crowd, Baroness Jenny Tonge said: “What on earth is Israel doing? It has lost its legitimacy, it is no longer a democratic state.
“It breaks international law, Geneva conventions, it has no respect for human rights. Israel must leave the international family of nations.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister David Cameron and US president Barack Obama have discussed the worsening situation in Gaza during a phone conversation, Downing Street said.
A No 10 spokeswoman said: “Both leaders reiterated their support for Israel’s right to take proportionate action to defend itself from the barrage of rocket attacks from Gaza.”
The two leaders also discussed Iran’s nuclear programme and “agreed that we should keep up our efforts to negotiate a lasting agreement which gives the world confidence that the nuclear activities of Iran are exclusively for peaceful purposes”.
Yesterday a group of pro-Palestinian demonstrators had to be ejected from the Cabinet Office after staging a protest against Israeli military action in Gaza..
Police officers were called to remove the small group, who were chanting anti-Israel slogans and carrying banners reading “Stop arming Israel”.
Israel and militants within the Gaza strip have been exchanging fire for 11 days, leading to the deaths of 235 Palestinians from air force and naval fire, the Gaza Health Ministry says.
One Israeli has been killed by rockets from Gaza. According to the IDF, Hamas militants have fired more than 1,300 rockets into the Israeli heartland.
On Wednesday, horrifying pictures emerged after four Palestinian children were killed in Gaza when Israeli shelling struck a group playing football on a beach.
The attack was witnessed by scores of foreign journalists, many who rushed to help the children that survived the attack.