A Kurdish protest in Paris on Saturday following a deadly attack on Friday had progressed peacefully, and unrest that started in the late hours appears to have been related to acts of provocation, Laurent Nuñez, the prefect of Paris police said on Saturday.
Some 31 police officers and one protestor were injured during a march at the Place de la République on Saturday, after three people, including a prominent Kurdish women’s rights activist, were killed and three others were wounded in an armed attack at the Ahmet Kaya Cultural Centre in Paris’s 10th arrondissement.
However, while the protest remained largely peaceful, clashes between some protesters and police broke out, leaving streets and cars damaged.
Nuñez, talking to the French channel BFMTV, said 11 people were arrested for damages, adding that only a few dozen of the protestors reverted to violence.
The demonstration had started “normally”, Nuñez said. The incidents began “shortly after 1pm for a reason that appears to have been related to provocation,” he added. Nuñez also stated that he had received information about a pick-up truck that passed close to the demonstration which could have been the source of the provocation.
According to Berivan Fırat, a spokesperson for the Kurdish Democratic Council in France, the van carried some provocateurs with Turkish flags making the sign of the Grey Wolves, a symbol of ultra-nationalists in Turkey.
“We stopped the march in order to avoid damage at the Place de la République and people getting injured,” Fırat told BFMTV, adding that from the group will not be held responsible for the actions of protesters from that point on.
Footage from Saturday showing cars overturned and burning and protestors throwing things at the police has been widely circulated on social media and particularly used by the Turkish pro-government media, with outlets saying that supporters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) had turned the streets of Paris into a war zone.
On Sunday, a top aide of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan joined the chorus.
“This is PKK in France,” wrote İbrahim Kalın on Twitter in a post, adding footage from Sunday’s clashes.
“The same terrorist organisation you support in Syria. The same PKK that has killed thousands of Turks, Kurds & security forces over the last 40 years. Now they are burning the streets of Paris. Will you still remain silent?”
“Then they chant ‘We are all PKK’. No further comment,” he added in a subsequent post.
Later, the spokesperson for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Ömer Çelik joined in with a statement on Twitter, in which he said, “Those who nourish the terrorist organisation have now come face to with the terrorism.”