French far-right monarchists rally after court approval
Around 500 right-wing protesters marched in Paris on Sunday after a court reversed a police ban of the rally despite a government order to curtail far-right demonstrations.
The gathering organised by Action Francaise, one of France's historic monarchist groups, honoured Joan of Arc, who led the French to a famous victory over the English in the 15th century. She is revered by many of France's far-right movements.
Participants were overwhelmingly men, some wearing a beret or an armband the colour of the French flag.
They made their way from the historic Opera house to a golden statue of Joan on a horse in central Paris, laying wreaths at its feet.
The demonstration was over by midday.
It was allowed to go ahead after the Paris administrative court on Saturday decided that it did not of itself constitute an incitement to public disorder.
It also allowed a symposium in the capital, titled "France in danger", which some 350 members attended under heavy police surveillance the same day.
"We defended the right to demonstrate according to French law," said the group's secretary general Olivier Perceval.
"There has never been an incident. It's not a protest. We're just honouring Joan of Arc."
According to Perceval, the annual rally has been banned only twice before: once by the Germans during World War II, and a second time after the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in 1990.
- 'Controversy' -
Paris police had banned six rallies in Paris over the weekend on public order grounds, after Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin issued directives to ban gatherings "of the ultra-right or extreme right".
Paris police chief Laurent Nunez had argued that the far-right gatherings were a threat to public order because of possible clashes with radical left activists, after "the controversy provoked by the demonstrations" the previous weekend in Paris.
Around 600 people -- some in masks, which French law prohibits in public spaces -- on Saturday last week responded to a call from a far-right white supremacist group to commemorate the death of a fellow activist in 1994.
It caused outrage among opposition lawmakers at a time when pan-bashing protests against President Emmanuel Macron over his unpopular pension reform have been repeatedly blocked.
Both Action Francaise and the extreme far-right group the Nationalists appealed this weekend's bans.
But the Paris court rejected the appeal from The Nationalists to hold a demonstration at the same time on Sunday.
Among the other rallies banned this weekend was one by the Yellow Vests movement, which in 2018 and 2019 shook the Macron administration in a series of massive protests before the Covid pandemic.
Some of their activists defied the ban on Saturday, Paris police told AFP. Officers broke up the gathering and fined 62 people, they added.