Scuffles broke out at the first rally for far-right French presidential candidate Éric Zemmour on Sunday with one man in the crowd grabbing Zemmour as he made his way to the stage and briefly putting him in a headlock.
From France 24:
Fighting broke out and chairs were thrown at activists who stood up with “No to Racism” written on their T-shirts. Blood was visible on at least two of them as they were ejected from the auditorium.
“We wanted to do a nonviolent protest,” Aline Kremer from the group SOS Racisme, which organised the stunt, told AFP. “People jumped on them and started hitting them.”
The person who attacked Zemmour was detained by police; the candidate’s team said Zemmour sustained a wrist injury as a result of the incident and plans to file a complaint.
The 63-year-old Zemmour has shaken up the French presidential race, which concludes in April next year. A longtime journalist and pundit known for his incendiary rhetoric, Zemmour has explicitly modeled his candidacy on Donald Trump’s. He has lamented France’s decline, which he blames in large part on Muslim immigration, for many years. And he routinely and gleefully drops incendiary comments that repel much of the country while delighting his fervent supporters. A small list of examples: He has suggested bombing the immigrant neighborhood in Brussels in which terrorists who attacked France had resided; asserted that all members of the Islamic faith think of jihadists as “good Muslims”; and falsely said the Vichy government, which collaborated with the Nazis, “protected French Jews.” (Zemmour is Jewish himself, which makes this stance all the stranger.) Zemmour has been fined under French law for anti-Muslim comments and went on trial last month on charges of “incitement to hatred or violence” after labeling unaccompanied child immigrants “rapists” and “murderers.”
At Sunday’s tense rally, Zemmour said he would call his new political party Reconquest, which, as CNN notes, recalls Reconquista, the Christian campaign during the Middle Ages to drive Muslims out of modern-day Spain.
Zemmour has the potential to split the right-wing vote, which in recent years has been dominated by perennial candidate Marine le Pen. This could potentially help Emmanuel Macron, who is running for a second term, though he faces a challenge from center-right candidate Valerie Pécresse. The top two vote-getters in the first round of voting will face each other in a runoff in late April.