France

Thousands march in France in pre-election protest against far right

Reuters

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Thousands march in France in pre-election protest against far right

PROTEST. People hold a banner that reads "against the far right, on the street and at the ballot box", during a demonstration against the French far-right National Rally (Rassemblement National - RN) party, ahead of early legislative elections in Paris, France, June 15, 2024.

REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

At least 150 marches are expected in cities including Marseille, Toulouse, Lyon, and Lille

PARIS, France – Demonstrations were under way in Paris and cities across France on Saturday, June 15, to protest against the far-right National Rally (RN) ahead of upcoming elections to the French parliament.

Following the RN’s surge in last Sunday’s European elections, police said 350,000 people were expected to march and 21,000 officers had been mobilized after labor unions, student groups, and rights groups called for rallies to oppose the anti-immigration, eurosceptic party.

At least 150 marches were expected in cities including Marseille, Toulouse, Lyon, and Lille.

In Paris, where up to 100,000 people were expected to turn out, a march set off at 1200 GMT from Place de La Republique, in the east, going through the Bastille square to Nation.

Speaking at Place de La Republique, hard-left CGT union leader Sophie Binet told reporters: “We are marching because we are extremely worried that (the RN’s head) Jordan Bardella could become the next Prime Minister…We want to prevent this disaster.”

Carol-Ann Juste, a 22 year-old student taking part in the Paris march, said it was the first time she had taken part in a protest. She said she was “worried because people believe the lies of this party that has a truly racist heritage,” a reference to the National Front, a forerunner to the RN, whose leader Jean-Marie Le Pen was fined for remarks seen as anti-semitic or xenophobic.

Juste said she wanted to “fight to preserve a country of human rights, freedom, and tolerance.”

Next government

On the same march, Cecilia Lormeau, a 34-year old teacher who said she plans to vote for the Popular Front, an alliance of left-wing parties, said: “It is important to show we are mobilised and that the RN is not the majority of the people.”

President Emmanuel Macron called a snap legislative election, to be held in two rounds on June 30 and July 7, after his centrist alliance was trounced by the RN in last Sunday’s European Parliament ballot.

A first series of opinion polls have projected that the RN could win the election and be in a position to form the next government.

A poll conducted for Le Point magazine published on Friday forecast RN would lead in the first round of the parliamentary election with 29.5% of votes, narrowly ahead of the Popular Front on 28.5%.

Macron’s centrist camp was on 18%.

At least two polls have put the left not far behind the RN and ahead of Macron’s group.

In Tours, western France, where hundreds of protesters were taking part in a march, a banner read: “For liberties, for rights, for a social and democratic republic, against far-right ideas and against racism.”

Several banners read: “Young people hate the FN (the RN’s former name),” while a pensioner carried a banner that read: “Old people also hate the RN.” – Rappler.com

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