Hundreds March To Resist Le Pen’s Campaign Rally In Paris

Anti-Fascist demonstrators also plan to protest Le Pen's rally on Monday and Wednesday

People hold a banner reading "Paris and its Suburbs against the National Front" — AFP/Getty Images
Apr 17, 2017 at 3:46 PM ET

Hundreds of demonstrators to marched in Paris on Sunday to protest far-right presidential candidate and leader of the National Front Party Marine Le Pen.

The group that organized the protest, Anti-Fascist Action (AFA), wrote that their purpose is to voice opposition to Le Pen’s message, which they say is one of racism and Islamophobia. Protesters began marching in the suburb Aubervilliers and finished in the city’s center, and plan to continue protesting on Monday in front of another Le Pen rally at the Zenith concert hall in Paris.

Le Pen, who has led the National Front since 2011, promises that if elected she’ll fight to remove France from the European Union, establish a national currency, and crack down on immigration. Until last week, polls had consistently showed her neck-and-neck with independent centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron, both with around 25 percent of voters, followed by Francois Fillon with around 17 percent of voters. However, in the last few days, the polls indicate a surge in support for conservative candidate Francois Fillon, who formerly served as France’s Prime Minister, and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, turning the first round into a four-way race. An atypically high number of eligible voters saying they intended stay home on election day has also increased the uncertainty about the first round.

Despite Le Pen’s attempts to distance the National Front from its extremist past, she sparked outrage last week after downplaying the role France played during the Holocaust, reigniting anger over the party’s anti-Semitic roots.

Activists have said they also plan to protest Le Pen’s rally on Wednesday, according to The Local France, an English language outlet. Interior Minister Matthias Fekl told the French newspaper Journal du Dimanche that authorities are aware of the possibility of violent protests in the event that Le Pen continues to the second round.

Around the world, the French election is being considered an important indicator of the extent of global populism, after the election of President Trump and the Brexit. France will hold its first election round on April 23 and the two frontrunners will face a final vote on May 7.