Ivory Coast: pro-Gbagbo demo in Paris

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A few hundred supporters of Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo took to the streets of Paris on Sunday to protest France's role in the bloody political crisis in their homeland.

French troops seized the airport in Ivory Coast's commercial capital Abidjan on Sunday and the former colonial power backs Gbagbo rival Alassane Ouattara's claim to have won last November's presidential election.

But many of the large Ivorian immigrant community in France still support the outgoing leader, even after armed militiamen backing the internationally recognised head of state Ouattara took control of much of the country.

Hundreds of pro-Gbagbo demonstrators gathered outside a police station on the busy Rue Clignancourt in northern Paris' Chateau Rouge district, home to a large African population, to demand the release of fellow protesters.

Waving Ivorian and other African flags, they chanted "Africa stand up", "We want Laurent Gbagbo" and "Shame on France!", as well as slogans from the Ivorian leader's election campaign.

"We were trying to gather at Trocadero to exercise our right to peaceful protest," said a 35-year-old protester who gave his name as Guero, referring to a popular landmark three kilometres away in the tourist heart of Paris.

"They arrested around 50 of us and brought them here, so we're demanding their release," he said, as officers released detainees one-by-one from behind a line of gendarmes in helmets and riot gear.

Once the detainees had been released the crowd moved away peacefully, still singing Ivorian protest songs. Riot officers remained on hand, but traffic slowly returned to normal and there was no sign of fresh arrests.

© 2011 AFP

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