The French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has confirmed that the grassroots movement Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA) has been banned from marching in Calais this Saturday, accusing the group of raising tensions and promoting division and violence. The movement’s leaders in the region have declared that they will march regardless.
Following a meeting with Calais mayor Natascha Bouchard, President of the Regional Council of Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardy, Xavier Bertrand, and councillor Yann Capet, Mr Cazeneuve declared: “I have asked the Pas-de-Calais prefect to proceed with the banning of all protests that have the potential of disrupting public order, no matter who the organizers are,” Le Monde has reported.
He said he was specifically referring to groups which seek “to create tension, division and violence,” and that the ban would stay in place “for as long as the current climate remains”.
Some of the French media, including national paper Le Figaro, have taken to calling the PEGIDA movement “Islamophobic”
Ms Bouchard welcomed the decision as a “wise and good” one which will help the economic life of the town as well as local residents, while Mr Bertrand said “The population is exasperated and we want to avoid a tragedy.”
The ban was prompted by violent scenes that took place nearly a fortnight ago when far left activists descended on the town for a mass ‘No Borders’ rally. Fights broke out between migrants and local residents, while activists encouraged law breaking and mayhem.
Ms Bouchart took to Facebook to say that she had warned the authorities beforehand that the event was likely to get out of hand, as tensions are high in the coastal town. Yet her warnings were ignored, and the event was allowed to go ahead regardless.
Consequently locals have reacted angrily to the ban being put in place after the left was allowed to march, but before PEGIDA was able to do so.
Local group Calais Libre (Free Calais) have posted a statement on their Facebook page, saying: “So only migrants, antifas [anti-fascists], and No Borders are allowed to march in Calais, but not Calaisians. Under what pretext? [They say] it’s due to fear of social disorder.
“But everyone knew that the protest on the 23rd January by pro-migrant groups would end badly, yet the prefecture chose to ignore the warnings.
“Furthermore not a single migrant, or antifascist, or No Borders activist has been sentenced for their role in defacing the statue of Charles De Gaulle, nor for infiltrating the port.
“Yet it is we French, we Calaisians who they want to silence. Are they afraid that journalists will see how fed up we are?
“We say enough! The time has come for us to express ourselves. This is not a matter of religion, but of migration, so we will be present this Saturday. This is Calais, not The Jungle. The city belongs to the people of Calais, not the migrants.”
They added that they wanted the march also to be a show of support for the French riot police, and are intending to hold a barbecue on the day to thank them for the work they do.
The statement is something of a u-turn for the group which cancelled a planned march of their own last week for fear that it would prompt violent clashes between the townspeople and the pro-migrant groups. Their volte-face suggests that the French authorities have merely exacerbated the situation by branding local people as troublemakers.