Hundreds of people took to the streets on the French island of Corsica on Sunday, in violation of the ban on demonstrations imposed in the regional capital of Ajaccio after two days of anti-Muslim protests.
The protesters attempted to make their way to the Jardins de l’Empereur neighborhood, which was the epicenter of the protests on Friday and Saturday, and of the Christmas Eve clash in which two firefighters and a police officer were injured.
However, the riot police erected a fence at the entrance to the low-income neighborhood, where the majority of residents are immigrants, and prevented the crowd from getting inside.
The demonstrators carried the Corsican flag and shouted slogans, heard in the city during the previous days of protest: “This is our home” and “Arabs get out.”
The rally in Ajaccio on Sunday attracted around 300 people, according to AFP.
“The protest wasn’t static,” Dmitry Kukushkin, producer at RT’s Ruptly video agency, reported from the scene.
After the protesters were denied access to Jardins de l’Empereur, they “staged a march on the central streets of the city, which went on for several hours” he added.
They also rallied in front of the prefecture building, with around a half of the crowd returning to the police barricade at the entrance to the immigrant district after dark.
The rally was peaceful and only saw “just a few firecrackers thrown by the demonstrators, but the police didn’t react,” Kukushkin said.
However, there was an unpleasant incident with the Ruptly producer as his laptop was snatched by protesters, who didn’t like some of the footage he shot during the day.
“I contacted the organizers of the protest and the computer was returned to me in 20 minutes,” Kukushkin said, adding that when he got his laptop back the SD-card was destroyed and there had been attempts to delete the editing program.
Earlier, Corsica’s administrator, Christophe Mirmand, announced a ban on all protests and gatherings at Jardins de l’Empereur until at least January 4.
“It is an order that was taken last night as part of a state of emergency… Instigation of hatred is an offence that can lead to criminal proceedings,” Mirmand said, as cited by France Info.
The unrest in Ajaccio followed after a night of violence in Jardins de l’Empereur on Christmas Eve when two firefighters and a police officer were ambushed by “several hooded youths”.
On Friday, an angry mob retaliating over the attacks, ransacked a Muslim prayer house in the neighborhood.
The protests continued on Saturday. A group of 100-300 people marched in Ajaccio, shouting anti-Muslim slogans.
Anti-Muslim sentiment is rising in France following the Islamic State terrorist attacks on November 13 in Paris that killed 130 people.
Corsica, a small Mediterranean island, has a long history of nationalistic movements, which occasionally lead to violence.
Anti-immigrant and nationalist parties performed well during last month’s regional election, giving the island its first-ever nationalist government.
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