A French city has cancelled a show by the controversial comic behind the quenelle salute.

The announcement by Bordeaux’s mayor, former Prime Minister Alain Juppe, followed a comment by France’s interior minister saying that local officials have the right to ban the shows.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls’ decision to target Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala was unusual because it touches on what might be viewed as free expression and because he has performed for decades.

He is now well known for popularising a hand gesture that’s been used by sports stars such as Nicolas Anelka. Mr Valls has criticized the “quenelle” gesture as an “inverted Nazi salute.”

Mr Dieudonne takes his show on the road this week after performances at his regular venue in Paris, a theatre he long owned but now rents.

Mr Valls notified regional prefects today that they, along with mayors, can close Mr Dieudonne’s shows based on a potential risk to public order and instructed them how to proceed.

The move to keep Mr Dieudonne from performing cuts across political lines. Mr Juppe – a conservative mayor of Bordeaux and a political rival of France’s Socialist government – said “conditions are fulfilled” to ban the show in the city on January 26. Other conservative mayors have indicated they want to keep the comic away from their towns, too.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault had said there was “no doubt” that Thursday’s show in the western city of Nantes, where he used to be mayor, would get the axe.

That point of view is contested by Mr 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.

Mr Mirabeau said 5,200 seats in the 6,000-seat theatre in Nantes have been sold, and “the house will be full” by Thursday.

The 47-year-old Mr 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 autumn 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.