PARIS (AP) — Days after two banned pro-Gaza protests degenerated into violence, several thousands of demonstrators marched Wednesday through Paris under the eye of hundreds of riot police, this time in a legal protest.
With banners featuring slogans such as "Boycott Israel" and "Israel Murderer," demonstrators tested a government grappling with how best to allow freedom of expression while containing violence — and hate speech against France's Jews.
Jewish leaders say vocal anti-Semitic chants in previous demonstrations and several attacks on synagogues reflect rising anti-Semitism in Europe.
France has Western Europe's largest Jewish and Muslim populations, and the Middle East conflict often means rocketing tensions in France.
"Today we are here for Palestine, because we find Israel shameful, because children are dying, and it's unbearable to see all this," said Fatima El Fetoui, 56.
Wednesday's demonstrators said they were not anti-Semitic — they simply opposed Israel's actions against Gaza.
"You just need to differentiate between Jews and Israel. What we are fighting is the Zionist state. I am not fighting the Israelis," said Vincent Santoro, 24.
In two banned demonstrations last weekend, in Paris and the northern suburb of Sarcelles, groups of youths pillaged stores and attacked police.
Two synagogues in Paris were attacked July 13.