France’s Interior Minister said that local officials have the right to ban shows on a national tour of a comic whose performances are considered anti-Semitic.
Hours later, Bordeaux’s mayor, former prime minister Alain Juppe, accepted the offer, making the wine capital the first French city to cancel a show by Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala ahead of the comic’s tour.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls’ decision yesterday to target Dieudonne was unusual because it touches on what might be viewed as free expression and because Dieudonne has performed for decades.
He is now well known for popularising a hand gesture that’s been used by sports stars such as Nicolas Anelka. Valls has criticised the “quenelle” gesture as an “inverted Nazi salute”.
Dieudonne takes his show on the road this week after performances at his regular venue in Paris, a theatre he long owned but now rents.
Valls notified regional prefects yesterday that they, along with mayors, can close Dieudonne’s shows based on a potential risk to public order and instructed them how to proceed.
The move to keep Dieudonne from performing cuts across political lines. Juppe a conservative mayor of Bordeaux and a political rival of France’s Socialist government said “conditions are fulfilled” to ban the show in the city on January 26.
Other conservative mayors have indicated they want to keep the comic away from their towns, too.
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault had said there was “no doubt” that Thursday’s show in the western city of Nantes, where he used to be mayor, would get the ax.
That point of view is contested by Dieudonne’s lawyer. “We are not at all worried,” Sanjay Mirabeau said by telephone.
He contended that officials would have to show that the “risk is real.” He said if the show is shut down, the comic’s lawyers will demand an urgent judicial review of the matter. Mirabeau said 5,200 seats in the 6,000-seat theatre in Nantes have been sold, and “the house will be full” by Thursday.
Valls said racial and anti-Semitic remarks in Dieudonne’s show are legal infractions and “no longer belong to the artistic and creative dimension”.
In a notice sent to prefects, Valls said that Dieudonne’s show, “The Mur,” (“The Wall”) contains “disgraceful and anti-Semitic words toward Jewish personalities or the Jewish community … And virulent and shocking attacks on the memory of victims of the Holocaust.”