Europe

Former French Foreign Legion chief held at Calais Pegida rally

Former French General Christian Piquemal (with loudspeaker) at Calais rally. Photo: 6 February 2016 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Former General Christian Piquemal (with a loudspeaker) said he was shocked by the police action

A former French general has been arrested with about 20 other protesters at a banned anti-Islam rally in the city of Calais.

Gen Christian Piquemal, who headed the Legion in the 1990s, was held after scuffles began with police in the northern city.

Thousands of migrants are living in a Calais camp known as the "Jungle".

The rally was one of many held across Europe against what participants say is the "Islamisation" of the continent.

They were staged after the anti-Islamic Pegida group urged members and sympathisers to publicly voice their concerns.

Saturday's rally in Calais came amid increasing hostility to migrants in the area, with French prosecutors investigating at least six assaults on people living in the Jungle.

France 'in decline'

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Media captionIn Calais 150 people protested against the presence of refugees there

On Saturday, officials said French police had issued warnings to disperse to about 150 Calais protesters, who waved national flags and sang the anthem in the town centre.

As skirmishes began, the police used tear gas to break up the demonstration.

Gen Piquemal said he was "shocked by the behaviour of the police".

"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 authorities earlier ordered Calais authorities to ban all rallies in the town "regardless of the organisers".

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