French authorities have announced the ban of demonstration by activists claiming the policeman who stabbed four of his colleagues was not an Islamist radical but a man discriminated for his partial hearing.
Last week, four police employees were stabbed to death at the headquarters in Paris. The killing shook the country, prompting President Emmanuel Macron to promise an “unrelenting” fight against what he termed “Islamist hydra”.
Mickael Harpon, converted to Islam about 10 years ago and, according to investigators, had adopted increasingly radical beliefs and had been in contact with a radical Salafist imam.
A local activist, Hadama Traore, had called for a demonstration on Thursday in Gonesse, the northeastern Paris suburb where Harpon lived, insisting that he was “not a religious extremist”.
Taking to Facebook, Traore claimed that Harpon suffered discrimination and mockery at work because he was hard of hearing.
“That’s the context which explains why he cracked,” he wrote, while condemning the “atrocious” killings.
Leader of the far-right National Rally (RN), Marine Le Pen had urged the government to ban the protest.
“How can we believe that Emmanuel Macron will fight against the ‘Islamist hydra’ when he cannot even ban a demonstration supporting an assassin of four police organised by an earthworm?” she wrote on Twitter.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner insisted the demonstration would be banned, calling it an “obscenity and insult to the memory of our police”.
Castener is under huge pressure as the government is pressed to explain how Harpon’s radicalisation failed to raise red flags.
On Tuesday, the minister appeared before a parliamentary committee, conceding there had been a “malfunction” in not reporting the signals.
According to analysts, Mr Macron and his government want to show they are tackling Islamist extremism to prevent a drift of voters to the far right.
Mr Macron’s speech Tuesday at a ceremony for the slain police marked a toughening of rhetoric, with the president calling on France to be a “society in a state of vigilance”.