Anti-Arab march held in Corsica despite ban on protests

Hundreds of people march in Corsica despite ban on all protests after violent anti-Arab demonstrations

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

People take part in a demonstration in Ajaccio on December 27, 2015 after France banned demonstrations in part of the Corsican capital Ajaccio following two days of anti-Arab protests and sectarian tensions

Hundreds of people marched in Corsica, the French Mediterranean island, on Sunday despite a ban on all protests and gatherings announced after two days of violent anti-Arab demonstrations.

Protesters gathered and marched through poor areas of the capital Ajaccio on Saturday for a second straight day, chanting slogans such as “This is our home!” and “Arabs get out.”

On Friday, protesters from a far-right group ransacked a mosque and attempted to burn copies of the Quran in Ajaccio.

After the riots, two people were detained on the island. Corsica’s administrator Christophe Mirmand announced a ban on all protests and gatherings until at least January 4 in the poor Jardins de l’Empereur housing estate, the focal point of the violence.

"This behaviour must stop. It hurts Corsica's image," Mirmand said.

However, hundreds of people took the streets again on Sunday sidestepping the ban, they marched through other neighbourhoods in the capital Ajaccio shouting, “We fight against scum, not against Arabs!”

“We aren’t thugs, we aren’t racists,” they yelled as they were marching through the police station and several low-income areas, before returning to the Jardins de l’Empereur estate where they were blocked by the police.

Demonstrators march towards the prefecture in Ajaccio during a protest on December 26, 2015 (AFP)

The unrest resulted in a clash erupted in Christmas Eve on Thursday in which two firefighters and a police officer were wounded at the estate, where 1,700 people live, half of them of non-French origin.

Regional official Francois Lalanne said that a fire were deliberately set in the neighbourhood in an attempt to ambush the emergency services.

A firefighter claimed that about 20 people, carrying iron bars and baseball bats, tried to attack them but could not smash through the windows of their truck.

Two men in their 20s were detained as part of a probe into the unrest.

"Their involvement in the attack against the firefighters is still under investigation," prosecutor Eric Bouillard said adding that the men had brushes with authorities in the past.

The next day, 600 people gathered outside police headquarters to support the firefighters and the police. Some 300 left to head for the housing estate. The group shouted xenophobic slogans and ransacked a Muslim prayer room burning copies of the Quran, Lalanne said.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls posted on his Twitter account that the ransacking was "an unacceptable desecration" and also condemned the "intolerable attack" on the firefighters.

TRTWorld and agencies