CALAIS, France, Feb. 7 (UPI) -- Despite a ban, protesters gathered on Saturday in Calais, France, as part of an anti-Islam, anti-immigration demonstration where at least 20 people were arrested.
Calais is a city in northern France that lies at the entrance to the Channel Tunnel that connects continental Europe to the United Kingdom. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve banned the planned protest earlier this week after the PEGIDA anti-Muslim organization filed for a protest permit.
People rallied also in Austria, Germany, Poland, Slovakia, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic to protest what they say is "Islamization" of Europe. A statement by the organizers of the various protests said they were "aware of the fact that the thousand-year history of Western civilization could soon come to an end through Islam conquering Europe, and the fact that the political elites have betrayed us."
About 6,000 migrants live in a refugee camp called "The Jungle" near Calais, where most are attempting to reach Britain via the Channel Tunnel. Police arrested 20 protesters in Calais, some of whom were armed with blunt weapons and knives, after some clashes broke out.
Police used tear gas to break up the demonstration of about 150 people at the Calais town center, and arrested 20 people, including a former general, who headed the French Foreign Legion from 1994 to 1999. Gen. Christian Piquemal said he was "shocked by the behavior of the police," whom he seemed to indicate arrested protesters as they sung the French national anthem.
"There are things that have to be respected, including the national anthem - the Marseillaise - when it is sung," he told police officers. "I expected you to be at attention, singing with us but not one of you opened your mouth. And this is France - the great France, the eternal France, which used to be the lighthouse of the world. It is in decline. Decadent. I regret that you received these orders. You are forced to obey your orders, but you don`t have to behave this way in the field."
The French national government ordered Calais officials to ban all protests in the town, regardless of whichever group wished to participate.
More than a million immigrants flooded into Europe in 2015, most of them coming by sea from the Middle East and North Africa. But countries like Germany have taken in many more that are not part of this count, including tens of thousands from the Balkans. Germany says it has counted more than 1 million people who entered the country seeking asylum in 2015.