Tens of thousands march against far-right in France

Tens of thousands of people across France on Saturday marched against "attacks on freedoms" and what organisers said was a growing influence of far-right ideas ahead of next year's presidential elections.

Tens of thousands march against far-right in France
A "Freedom march" called by several organisations, associations and trade unions to "combat extreme right-wing ideas" on June 12. credit: SAMEER AL-DOUMY / AFP

Members of more than 100 left-leaning organisations participated in the “Liberty March” in cities and towns across the country.

The protests were the first opportunity for a divided left to take to the streets after a year and a half of Covid-19 restrictions.

Organisers reported 70,000 participants in Paris and 150,000 around the nation, while the Paris police and interior ministry put the numbers at 9,000 in the capital and 37,000 nationwide.

The interior ministry said 119 rallies had taken place.

In Nantes, western France, around 900 people rallied, according to the local prefecture, including scores of far-left militants who clashed with police.

In the Mediterranean port of Marseilles, more than a thousand demonstrators marched behind a CGT union banner that called for “unity to break down the capitalism that leads to fascism”.

Protesters vented against issues ranging from recent legislation they say chips away at liberties, such as a law that could see prosecutions for publishing images of police officers in action, to what they charge is a creep of far-right ideas into the mainstream ahead of next year’s elections.

In the southern city of Toulouse, a 54-year-old teacher and union activist who gave his name as Gauthier remarked that students had begun to challenge him and warned that “extreme right ideas are gaining ground”.

Far-right ideas “are no longer the monopoly of far-right parties and … have now largely penetrated the political class,” said Benoit Hamon, the Socialist presidential candidate in 2017.

In Paris, far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon had flour thrown in his face as he spoke to reporters.

A suspect arrested later in the day claimed to be a “sovereigntist” who social network specialists said broadcast far-right commentary on YouTube.

The move against Melenchon, who has been accused of fuelling conspiracy theories ahead of the presidential election, came days after President Emmanuel Macron was slapped in the face while shaking hands with people on a regional visit.

Other events that have caused concern in France recently are allegations of ties between far-left figures including Melenchon and Islamists, a YouTube video that simulated the execution of a militant from his France Unbowed party, and university gatherings at which Caucasian participants were allegedly not allowed to speak.

Jordan Bardella, vice president of the far-right National Rally (RN) party, dismissed the demonstrations on Saturday as a bid to deflect attention from Melenchon’s remarks on terrorism and the 2022 presidential election.

Groups that took part included Socialists, Communists, ecologists and trade unions.

READ MORE: Calls for nationwide day of demonstrations in France against ‘far-right ideology’

Member comments

  1. “Far-right ideas “are no longer the monopoly of far-right parties and … have now largely penetrated the political class,” said Benoit Hamon, the Socialist presidential candidate in 2017.”
    Perhaps that is because it is reflecting the average person’s wish to get on with life without being attacked and harangued by Socialists, Communists, ecologists and trade unions and their thugs perfumed by self-righteousness and a conceit that allows them to override a democratically elected government.

    1. Oooh, someone’s all grumpy. Do you ask these monsters who personally attack and harangue you which category of undesirable they belong to, or are you just generally cross about stuff?

      “Average people’ aren’t generally mental and shouty…..

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IN PICTURES: Thousands take to Berlin streets in peaceful social justice, climate protest

Thousands of people marched in Berlin on Saturday for human rights, solidarity and social justice and against climate change in response to a call from the 'Unteilbar' (Indivisible) movement.

IN PICTURES: Thousands take to Berlin streets in peaceful social justice, climate protest
Participants hold a banner reading "Stop the climate catastrophe" during a demonstration organised by the "#unteilbar" (indivisible) movement on September 4th, 2021 in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. (Photo by Adam BERRY / AFP)

An alliance of more than 340 organisations and initiatives, including the German Children’s Fund, Amnesty International, Fridays for Future, the German Trade Union Federation and the Berlin tenants’ association, called for the demonstration, according to German newspaper Tagesspiegel.

At the end of the demonstration, police estimated that the number of participants was in the “upper four-digit range”, adding that people mostly observed hygiene rules and wore masks. Some 30,000 people had registered to attend.

The unteilbar movement’s motto is “For a just society based on solidarity”. (Photo by Adam BERRY / AFP)
Organisers of the march decryed the growing divisions in European society that they say are being fuelled by policies that accentuate the gap between rich and poor, which prioritise security over human rights and promote nationalism over inclusion.
The alliance called for “different political priorities” and a redistribution of wealth from the top to the bottom in a tweet, explaining that current policies strengthened inequality in many areas. 
The below picture shows a banner from ‘Wer Hat Der Gibt’, an alliance that says the rich should pay for the crisis.

Participants of the march hold banners printed with ‘No place for racism!’ and “People are not the same, but their rights are’. (Photo by Adam BERRY / AFP)

“We want different political priorities and don’t let ourselves be played off against one other,” said Unteilbar activist Anna Spangenberg, Tagespiegel reported. Those who have political responsibility must “finally tackle the climate crisis consistently and in a socially fair manner” and fight racism and misanthropy, she said.

The country needed a democracy “which guarantees real participation for everyone and which everyone can help shape”, she added.

Participants hold a sign reading ‘No Place For Nazis’ during a demonstration organised by the “#unteilbar” (indivisible) movement. (Photo by Adam BERRY / AFP)

A sign reads ‘Racism is not normal’, a reference to the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party slogan ‘Germany, but normal’ at Saturday’s demonstration. (Photo by Adam BERRY / AFP)

“I’m here today because I’ve been fighting for more hospital staff and fair wages for years,” said protester Dana, Tagesspiegel reported. “And I know that this is only possible together and in solidarity.” Another participant, Florian, said he wanted to “make a statement against right-wing parties” and “for human rights” before the general election.

The general election takes place in less than three weeks time and will see Chancellor Angela Merkel step down after 16 years in power.

READ ALSO: Who will replace Angela Merkel as chancellor?

Police officers working at the demonstration said hygiene measures were mostly observed and participants wore masks. (Photo by Adam BERRY / AFP)

A participant holds a flag reading ‘love music- hate fascism’. (Photo by Adam BERRY / AFP)

Participants at the “#unteilbar” (indivisible) demonstration hold banners, one reading ‘Solidarity is #non-negotiable’. (Photo by Adam BERRY / AFP)