French election: Street demonstrations against Marine Le Pen as candidates enter final week neck-and-neck

Some demonstrators threw firebombs at police, who responded with tear gas

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of protesters in France have marched against far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, over concerns basic freedoms would disappear if she were elected.

Some demonstrators threw firebombs at police during the march from suburban Aubervilliers to a Paris neighbourhood where the Front National leader is scheduled to hold a rally.

Officers responded with tear gas during the small skirmishes.

Marine Le Pen says France not responsible for WWII Jew round-up

One protester, Fernanda Marrucchelli, said Ms Le Pen's anti-immigration party "is fighting our essential freedoms, our rights, no matter if we are French or immigrant." 

A banner at the front of the march read "Paris-Suburbs Against the National Front".

Marchers handed out pamphlets denouncing xenophobia and racism that they allege Ms Le Pen and her party represent. 

Anti-racism activist Omar Slauti said the fight against Le Pen should be in the streets, not the ballot box, denouncing the "extreme-right populism" that has spread around Europe. 

Ms Le Pen, who wants to pull France out of the European Union, is one of the top contenders in France's first-round presidential vote on 23 April.

A presidential runoff is being held on 7 May between the top two-vote-getters. 

Polls suggest Ms Le Pen, centrist Emmanuel Macron, far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon and conservative Francois Fillon all have a chance of reaching the runoff.

The presidential race is being watched internationally as an important gauge of populist sentiment.

Ms Le Pen has worked to erase the image of racism and anti-Semitism that for years defined her party. 

However, last week she drew protests from her election rivals by denying the French state's responsibility for a mass arrest of Jews in Paris during the Second World War.

She later issued a statement saying she considered the French state was in exile in London during the occupation and that her stance "in no way exonerates the effective and personal responsibility of the French people who took part in the horrible Vel d'Hiv roundup and in all the atrocities committed during this period."

 The Front National leader wants to restore a French identity that she claims has been erased by "massive immigration," mainly from former French colonies in Muslim North Africa. 

Additional reporting by AP