Hundreds of people defied authorities on the French island of Corsica Sunday to rally in opposition to the influence and presence of Arabs. The ongoing demonstration broke a temporary ban on public gatherings and continued a three-day backlash to a Christmas Eve attack that left two firefighters and a police officer injured.
The firefighters and police officer were injured Thursday in Jardins de L’Empereur, a low-income housing project in the capital city of Ajaccio that has become popular with immigrants, Agence France-Presse reported. It’s not yet clear who instigated the attacks or why.
A regional official told the news service somebody lit a fire to lure emergency personnel to the area. Once they arrived, a group of about 20 people “armed with iron bars [and] baseball bats” attempted to break through the windshield of their truck, according to a firefighter who was interviewed on French television.
In response, about 600 supporters convened at the city’s police headquarters Christmas Day to show support for the injured firefighters and officer. Subsequently, about one-half the group left and headed to the neighborhood where the attack occurred. They defaced a Muslim prayer hall, vandalized a kebab hut and burned copies of the Quran. At least two men in their 20s were detained by police, AFP reported.
Christophe Mirmand, the island’s highest-ranking government official, Saturday banned all protests in the area until Jan. 4. He warned demonstrators who shouted, “Arabs get out,” could be opening themselves up to prosecution for hate speech.
“This behavior must stop. It hurts Corsica's image,” AFP quoted Mirmand as saying. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls condemned both the break-in at the prayer hall and the Christmas Eve attack.
The protests have come at a time when France is on heightened alert, less than two months after multiple terrorist attacks killed 130 people in and around Paris.