'Anti-Semitic' comic Dieudonné M'Bala M'Bala's show banned hours after Nantes court said it could go ahead

Riot police carrying shields blocked access to the Zenith theatre as supporters arrived to protest decision

A French comic who is considered anti-Semitic was banned from performing last night just hours after a court in Nantes said he could go ahead with his show.

As conflicting rulings by French authorities over Dieudonné M'Bala M'Bala's act sowed widespread confusion, riot police carrying shields blocked access to the Zenith theatre in the western city of Nantes.

Thousands of stunned ticket-holders in the nearly sold-out show chanted and hissed.

The 47-year-old comedian has been convicted more than a half-dozen times for inciting racial hatred or anti-Semitism in shows in which the Holocaust has been derided. He also has popularised the "quenelle" hand gesture, which Valls has criticized as an “inverted Nazi salute.”

Dieudonné , as he is known, denies that his act and the "quenelle" are anti-Semitic.

Tensions over Dieudonné have played out on national television for days as they reached all the way to the pinnacle of the state, raising sometimes uncomfortable questions about free expression and anti-Semitism in today's France.

The tug-of-war over Thursday's show involved a multitude of French authorities: the Council of State, the country's highest administrative body; the city of Nantes; a court in Nantes and Interior Minister Manuel Valls.

Valls wants Dieudonné , (pronounced DYEU-dun-ay), kept off all stages in France, denouncing what he calls the "mechanics of hate" relayed by the comic.

The city of Nantes had banned the comic's performance, but a Nantes court overturned that ban earlier Thursday. Valls then took the matter to the ultimate authority, the Council of State, asking for an unusual urgent decision.

"In the face of the mechanics of hate ... we need firmness and determination and great calm," the interior minister said.

Citing a risk to public safety, the Council banned the performance only two hours before the show was to begin. It brushed aside claims that Dieudonné would change his show to avoid offensive language, and said a "serious risk" of "grave attacks" to fundamental French values could not be dismissed.

Valls declared that France had been made stronger by the decision to keep Dieudonné off the stage in Nantes.

"(But) the combat against the nauseating words of this personage continues," Valls said on the iTele TV station. "Citizens should not go to these shows."

There was no immediate reaction from Dieudonné, who had arrived expecting to perform after winning the first court battle. However, his Facebook page advised fans to avoid confrontation and go home "singing the Marseillaise," the French national anthem.

His fans and police eventually dispersed without serious incidents after the show was cancelled.

Thursday's legal drama may be just the beginning of a longer battle. Nicolas Anelka (R) performing the 'quenelle' alongside controversial French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala (L) Nicolas Anelka (R) performing the 'quenelle' alongside controversial French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala (L)

The Nantes show was to kick off a national tour. At least eight of the nearly 30 French cities where the comic's tour is planned through June are known to have banned his performances. Dieudonné has said he will fight them one by one.

Well-known Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld said it would be "intolerable" for the comedian to be allowed to stage Thursday night's show, given what already is happening in France.

"We have a country in which anti-Semitism is freely accepted," he said in a statement.

Valls is the most popular minister in France's Socialist government, but his adamant stance against Dieudonné, while drawing praise from leading conservative rivals, has left some mystified. Fears have been expressed that any bans on the show could prove counterproductive or even illegal.

The comic was convicted last fall for using the word "Shoananas", a mash-up of the Hebrew word for Holocaust and the French word for pineapple. A song containing the word is seen as deriding Holocaust survivors and victims. Some fans hoping to see Thursday's show carried pineapples.

Last week, an investigation was opened after Dieudonné allegedly made an anti-Semitic slur toward a Jewish journalist on France-Inter radio.

"When I hear him (the journalist) talk, you see ... I say to myself, gas chambers ... a pity," Dieudonne said during a performance last month.

AP

News
David Beckham
peopleFootballer joins No campaign
Sport
Angel Di Maria
Football
News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game
film
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
News
newsIn short, yes
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

Arts and Entertainment
art
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

QA Manual Tester - Agile

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Bursar/Business Manager

£70 - £100 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Experienced bursar or business...

Secondary School Teachers in Ipswich

Competitive & Flexible: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education are l...

Teaching Assistant

£45 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Qualified and/or experienced te...

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories