France election: Probe opened into violence at rally of far-right presidential hopeful Eric Zemmour

French far right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour delivers his speech during his first rally, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021 in Villepinte, north of Paris.
French far right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour delivers his speech during his first rally, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021 in Villepinte, north of Paris. Copyright Credit: AP
By AP with Euronews
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60 people were arrested after violence erupted at far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour's first rally.


French prosecutors opened an investigation on Monday into violence that erupted at the first campaign rally of far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour.

The 63-year-old author and former TV pundit with repeated convictions for hate speech officially launched his campaign last week for the presidential election in April.

Police detained around 60 people after fists and chairs flew and anti-racism activists were injured at Zemmour's rally with thousands of supporters north of Paris on Sunday.

An anti-racism group released a video on Twitter showing its members, dressed in black with "No to racism" on their sweaters, beaten up by people at the rally and brutally taken out of the room.

At least two people were bleeding, the AFP news agency reported on Sunday.

The scuffles continued outside the room between anti-racism activists and security guards, AP reported.

"In a few seconds chairs were thrown, activists put to the ground and beaten up. They ended up with open wounds -- for at least two of them -- while others took blows. In France, in 2021, when we come to a meeting to say no to racism, we end up with a bleeding head," Dominique Sopo, president of SOS Racisme told AFP.

"This candidate unleashes hatred in his wake," Sopo said, adding that the activists will press charges following the incident.

Probe also focuses on Zemmour attacker

As well as the violence targeting anti-racism activists, the prosecutors' office said it is also investigating an attack on Zemmour himself.

Video images showed a man surging out of the crowd with arms outstretched as the candidate walked through throngs at the rally.

The man appeared to briefly lock arms around Zemmour's neck before he was pulled away.

'Impossible is not French'

At the meeting, Zemmour unveiled his campaign’s slogan: "Impossible is not French," a quote attributed to Napoleon, as well as his party's name: "Reconquest".

"What’s at stake is huge," Zemmour said. "If I win that election, it won’t be one more (political) changeover, but the beginning of the reconquest of the most beautiful country in the world."

Supporters at the rally sang France’s national anthem, shouted "Zemmour, president!" and "We will win!" while brandishing the tricolor French flag.

Reporters from a French television show covering politics were booed and insulted by Zemmour’s supporters ahead of his speech, leading them to be briefly escorted outside the room by security guards. They came back soon afterwards but Zemmour harshly criticised the media in his speech.

"They are making up polemics about books I wrote 15 years ago, they snoop into my private life, call me all sort of names... My adversaries want my political death, journalists want my social death and jihadists want my death," he said.

Thousands protest in Paris

The rally, which was initially to take place in a Paris concert hall, has been moved to a bigger exhibition centre in a northern suburb of the capital.

The move was prompted by security reasons as a protest against Zemmour took place on Sunday in the French capital.

Michel Spingler/AP
Protesters march during a demonstration against French presidential candidate Eric Zemmour, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021 in Paris.Michel Spingler/AP

The march was organised by over 50 organisations including far-left political parties, unions and anti-racist groups. Police had feared possible clashes with Zemmour's far-right supporters.

In the popular Paris neighbourhood of Barbes, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets on Sunday, marching behind a banner reading "Paris will silence the far-right."

Zemmour has gained strength on France’s political scene in recent months, starting to siphon off supporters from far-right National Party leader Marine Le Pen, who has long said she would run for the French presidency next year.

Zemmour's first rally comes one day after France's main right-wing party "Les Républicains" picked Valérie Pécresse, the head of the Paris region and a former minister from 2007 to 2012, as its presidential candidate.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who defeated Le Pen in the 2017 presidential runoff, is expected to seek a second term but he has yet to declare his candidacy.


The far-left leader of the Rebel France party, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who is seeking the presidency for the third time, also staged a rally on Sunday, gathering several thousand supporters in Paris.

Other presidential candidates on the left include Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo for the Socialist party and Green MEP Yannick Jadot.

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