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ENORMOUS rallies against anti-semitism took place in cities and towns across France last night.
Thousands took part in a demonstration at the Place de la Republique in Paris, with all political parties except the far-right taking part. Communist Party (PCF) leader Fabien Roussel attended alongside the head of the PCF’s European election list Ian Brossat and the latter’s campaign committee chair Lassana Bathily.
Mr Bathily, a Malian-born Muslim, was given French citizenship for his heroic role as a shop assistant in the Hypercache kosher supermarket siege of January 2015, when he helped to hide customers from self-declared Isis-supporting gunman Amedy Coulibaly who attacked the supermarket and killed four people, all Jews, in an anti-semitic killing spree.
Though not a Communist Party member, Mr Bathily was announced this month as the chair of the campaign committee supporting Mr Brossat’s list for the European parliamentary elections.
He explained: “Today, seeing the extreme right rising everywhere in Europe, I cannot sit idly by. I am committed to the side of Ian Brossat because I know he will know how to defend our values, in France and Europe.”
Mr Brossat said the crowds “bear witness to a massive rejection of anti-semitism and all attempts to instil the venom of hatred and division.”
Just hours ahead of the rallies the country was shocked by the desecration of 90 graves in a Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, near Strasbourg, with the tombstones defaced with spray-painted swastikas and anti-semitic abuse.
Official figures show anti-semitic attacks rose 74 per cent in 2018 compared with 2017. While the right has tried to denounce the anti-establishment gilets jaunes movement as anti-semitic, some in Tuesday’s crowds donned the signature yellow vests.
One, a teenager, told reporters: “The violence perpetrated against Jews are isolated acts that the vast majority of us condemn without hesitation.”
In Chartres, there were two main rallies, one called by the PCF in front of the Jean-Moulin monument as “symbol of the resistance and the fight against fascism,” and another by the yellow vests, who said they were rallying separately because they were “apolitical” but wanted “to reiterate that we are neither racist nor anti-semitic … the odious qualifiers we have been given are the opposite to the movement of the yellow vests in Chartres.”
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