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 theater 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.”
The 47-year-old Dieudonne denies his act—or the “quenelle”—is anti-Semitic. However, he has been convicted more than a half-dozen times for inciting racial hatred or anti-Semitism over the years.
He was most recently convicted last fall for using the word “Shoananas,” a mash-up of the Hebrew word for Holocaust, which is used in France, and the French word for pineapple. The song was seen as deriding Holocaust survivors and victims.
An investigation was opened last week after Dieudonne allegedly made an anti-Semitic slur toward a Jewish journalist on France-Inter radio. “When I hear him (the journalist) talk, you see … I say to myself gas chambers … a pity,” Dieudonne said during a performance last month, parts of which were shown on French TV.
The interior minister said he wants the comic’s shows banned but conceded that doing so entailed delicate legal questions. Even those who back silencing Dieudonne have voiced fears that doing so could be counterproductive since the issue touches on freedom of expression.
Valls said in his instructions to local officials that they can ban the show in one of two ways: by asserting that public authorities must do so to prevent potential trouble that such a show risks causing, or pronouncing the show itself constitutes a risk to public order.
Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, the famed Nazi hunters, along with their son Arno plan to lead a protest in Nantes on Wednesday, the night before Dieudonne’s show.
The Nantes show kicking off the tour is to be followed by appearances in two more French cities this week, then continue at that rate for months. Dieudonne is scheduled to perform in nearly 30 cities through June.
Mirabeau, the comic’s lawyer, noted that Dieudonne’s performances have not disturbed public order at the private Paris theater, contending it would be hard to cancel a show with a full house.
Dieudonne originally rose to fame as part of a comedy duo with the noted Jewish comedian Elie Semoun. The two regularly parodied everyday racism and discrimination in France before they fell out.
Years later, he befriended the founder of the far-right National Front party, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who is godfather to one of his children.
(AP correspondent Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed.)