Several hundred people defied authorities to rally against the presence of Arabs on Corsica, this Sunday.
The demonstration occurred despite the fact that the French island had put a temporary ban on public gatherings in low-income neighborhoods of its capital Ajaccio, which was the site of the recent vandalism of a Muslim prayer hall.
The unrest came as a result of a Christmas Eve clash, in which two firefighters and police officers were injured at Jardins de L’Empereur, a low-income housing project that housed around 1,700 people, half of them who were of non-French origin. Two men in their 20s were detained as part of the investigation of the attack.
On Friday, an angry mob ransacked a Muslim prayer hall and burned several copies of Quran as a backlash against the incident. The protest continued on Saturday when hundreds of people marched in Ajaccio, shouting xenophobic slogans like “Arabs get out” and “This is our home!”
Christophe Mirmand, the Corsican administrator, issued a temporary ban on all public gatherings until at least Jan. 4 in the poor districts of Ajaccio, but hundreds took to the street again dodging the ban by marching through other neighborhoods of the capital.
The protesters chanted slogans of “We aren’t thugs, we aren’t racists” as they made their way to the police station, then to many poor neighborhoods, before finally returning to Jardins de l’Empereur estate where police blocked their entry.
The local police authorities have placed at least five mosques in Ajaccio under protection and maintained a constant presence at Jardins de l’Empereur, the housing estate.
Anti-Muslim sentiments and xenophobic fears have been on the rise ever since the series of coordinated terrorist attacks by ISIS across Paris that left 130 dead.
The island has a long history of nationalist movements, which frequently lead to violence. The population of the verdant Mediterranean Isle de Beaute (Island of Beauty) swells ten-fold during the peak tourist season.