At least 54 people have been arrested in France for hate speech and making pro-extremist remarks in the last week, as France has instructed prosecutors to “crack down” on those types of speech.
Authorities reported the arrests after several unity rallies had taken place in Paris and throughout France last Sunday. The rallies were reported as a collection of gestures promoting solidarity, supporting free speech and confronting extremism.
In addition to the crackdown, France has also deployed 10,000 troops and 120,000 security forces to protect “sensitive” locations such as Jewish schools and synagogues and mosques.
None of the arrested individuals were linked to the attacks in Paris.
The Associated Press reported that “the Justice Ministry laid out the legal basis for rounding up those who defend the Paris terror attacks as well as those responsible for racist or anti-Semitic words or acts” in a message to all French prosecutors and judges.
Among the arrested was comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, who has been arrested on at least 38 other occasions for violating France’s anti-hate speech laws. The comedian has denied being an anti-Semite in the past, yet is known for making references to elite Jewish “slave drivers” as well as creating a hand gesture, called a “quenelle”, that resembles an inverted Nazi salute. Dieudonné was arrested on Wednesday after writing a Facebook post that resulted in the assumption that was sympathizing with one of the gunmen in the attacks in Paris.
“Tonight, as far as I’m concerned, I feel like Charlie Coulibaly,” Dieudonné wrote after attending Sunday’s unity march, combining the names of Charlie Hebdo and Amédy Coulibaly, the gunman who killed a police officer and four others during last week’s attacks in Paris. That post was deleted, but Dieudonné later addressed France’s interior minister on Monday:
Yesterday we all were Charlie. We all walked and freedoms stood up for to be allowed to laugh at everything. All the Government’s Officials – you included – were walking together in the same direction.
Yet, When I came back home I felt all alone. The Government has been targeting me for a year now and is still looking to eliminate me by any means: media lynching, ban on my performance shows, tax audits, bailiff raids, searches, indictments … More than eighty judicial procedures-have struck down on my kinfolk and me.
And the Government keeps on ruining my life. Eighty judicial procedures.
Since the beginning of last year, I have been treated as public enemy number one, when all I try to do is make people laugh, and laugh about death, because death laughs at us all, as Charlie knows now, unfortunately.
Even though I offered peace under your authority in the past weeks, I did not get any answer from you yet.
Whenever I express myself some people won’t even try to understand me, they will not listen. They try to find some kind of pretext to suppress me. I am looked upon as if I were Amedy Coulibaly, when I am no different from Charlie.
‘Semble it like you do not care about my words, UNLESS you can distort ’em and use’ em to fill yourself with indignation. Dear Minister, since it looks like I have finally earned some listening from your hand, I wish to remind you one thing: I offer peace.