The creator of the quenelle salute was arrested for allegedly attacking bailiffs who arrived to collect fines the French comedian owes for inciting hatred against Jews.
The French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, creator of the controversial quenelle salute, was arrested for allegedly assaulting court officers who came to his home with notices for payments due on fines for inciting hatred against Jews.
Dieudonne, who owes nearly $100,000 for several hate speech convictions, was arrested on Jan. 21, according to a report by the French news agency AFP. He is suspected of firing plastic projectiles at the bailiffs.
For his part, Dieudonne “denied ever being present at the site or discharging the projectiles,” prosecutor Patrice Ollivier-Maurel wrote in a statement obtained by AFP. The bailiff who filed the complaint that led to the arrest did not identify Dieudonne as the perpetrator.
Last week, one of Dieudonne’s sons, 14-year-old Noe M’bala M’bala, was taken into custody after police officers found him carrying a large knife. The boy was standing outside the Main d’Or theater, which his father is renting in Paris.
The French television station BFM reported that France’s fraud squad, the BRDP, has opened a preliminary investigation into Dieudonne’s actions on suspicion that he violated laws against fundraising in videos appealing to supporters to donate funds to his account to pay his fines.
Earlier this month, French Justice Ministry officials said they were investigating Dieudonne on suspicion that he committed fraud by funneling all proceeds from his shows to his life partner, Noemie Montagne, and registering his possessions in her name to avoid authorities from seizing funds and property as payment for the overdue fines.
Meanwhile, the president of France’s main Jewish group has nuanced his blanket condemnation of the quenelle gesture and said it is not necessarily anti-Semitic.
Roger Cukierman of the CRIF umbrella group adjusted his position in a filmed interview published on Jan. 21 on the website of the Le Figaro daily.
Reacting to the decision that day by England’s Football Association to punish Nicolas Anelka, a French soccer player who performed the gesture during a match, Cukierman said, “It seems to me a bit severe because it seems to me that this gesture has an anti-Semitic connotation, which would be reprehensible, only when performed in front of a synagogue or a Holocaust memorial site.”
But when performed at a place “without any Jewish connection, it seems to me like an anarchist gesture against the establishment, which, it seems, does not merit severe punishment,” he said.
Anelka posted the Le Figaro video of Cukierman on Twitter with the message: “Nothing to add.”
The Football Association announced that Anelka faces a ban of at least five matches for improper conduct, aggravated because it “included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief” for performing the gesture on the pitch after scoring a goal on Dec. 28.
On Dec. 26, Cukierman was quoted by Le Point and on CRIF’s website as saying, “We are very concerned by the impact of this gesture, which we consider a Nazi salute.”
Earlier in December, CRIF requested and received a special audience with President Francois Hollande to discuss the quenelle and other actions by Dieudonne.
On Dec. 31, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said at a news conference, “This gesture is a gesture of hatred, it’s an anti-Semitic gesture and all those who perform it should know — they can’t deny knowledge — that they are performing an anti-Semitic gesture, an inverted Nazi gesture.”