'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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Ashdown Group: Linux Administrator - London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrator ...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower