(Reuters) – A “sausage and wine” party went ahead in Paris despite a police ban but was staged near the Arc de Triomphe instead of in a Muslim neighbourhood.
Friday’s event had been criticised as highly provocative because it was planned for the day of weekly Muslim prayers and the World Cup soccer match between England and Algeria, a former French colony that is majority Muslim.
Even among the most dedicated soccer fans, that seems like a bit of a stretch to concoct a sense of insult. And Friday may be a day of prayer in the Muslim world, but in much of the Western world, it is a day of relief and celebration as the end of the work week. And so people party. It happens.
Friday was also the 70th anniversary of General Charles de Gaulle’s 1940 “Appeal of June 18” from London calling on the French to resist the German occupation. The Internet page advertising the party had repeated references to resistance.
The mayor of Paris had said the event was “clearly inspired by extreme right-wing movements”. Paris police banned the party because it risked sparking disturbances.
French daily Le Parisien estimated 600 to 800 people gathered on the Champs Elysees near the Arc de Triomphe to eat pork sausages and drink wine at what organisers called a “giant cocktail party”.
The crowd appeared noticeably older than the revellers usually drawn to the more politically neutral flash mob drinking parties that have become popular in France.
One man wore a pair of horns and braided pigtails associated with French comic book hero Asterix, an ancient Gaul whose exploits centre around resisting Roman occupation.
“18 June 1940 France, Republic, Liberty, 18 June 2010 Resistance,” read a large banner, with several participants waving French flags and holding aloft sausages.
Muslims do not eat pork and debates over a ban on the full face veil, polygamy and serving halal meat in fast food outlets in France have sparked bitter controversy in recent months.
The main organiser, Sylvie Francois, had said she wanted the event to be “a joyous protest” against the closing down of roads in the northern Goutte d’Or neighbourhood every day by Muslims praying in the street outside the overcrowded mosque there.
Of course, the decision to block the streets is simply a power play for a bigger mosque: Want your street back? Let us build whatever we want, wherever we want.
The event was announced on social networking site Facebook late last month and drew criticism from politicians and civic groups because the Facebook page contained thinly veiled anti-Muslim slogans.
The page for the Paris party features the slogans “Gathering of resisters”, “Support the resistance” and “Bring your French flags and sausage”. The group has more than 10,000 members.
A similar party planned for a largely Muslim area of Lyon in eastern France was cancelled after pressure from the police, the organiser said on the event’s Facebook page.