And then, on Monday, horror. As marchers attending the annual Joan of Arc rally of Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front crossed a bridge near the Louvre, 10 skinheads broke away. In plain view of hundreds of people, three of them grabbed Brahim and threw him in the Seine. He drowned.
Eight days earlier Le Pen had achieved his highest ever share of the vote in France; 15 per cent in the first ballot for the Presidency. In certain areas in the south, the National Front ran ahead of all other parties. Among the large number of unemployed it got nearly one third of the vote, more than any other party.
In the early Eighties Le Pen was dismissed as a racist and a neo-fascist. The overt and violent anti-immigrant content of his speeches and writings put him firmly on the fringes. To mainstream politicians he and his followers were beyond the pale - a throwback to an earlier and discredited Europe.
This year's rally, however, was a celebration of entry to the mainstream. Le Pen's role as kingmaker had become all the talk; which of the two remaining candidates would his supporters back - Jospin or Chirac? The NF performance was analysed in terms of what it said about disaffection and alienation in modern France. Le Pen himself was variously described as wily and charismatic - a part (albeit unlovely) of the political landscape.
But what did the kingmaker have to say when he learned of the death of Brahim Bourram? Anything except sorry. "It is not me that should be held to account," complained Le Pen. "The NF is not in charge of the security of the riverbanks." He was angry that "a peaceful, patriotic, elegant demonstration" had been "discredited by a provocation meant to divert attention from my message".
Le Pen's problem is that on Monday that message became all too clear. Not the verbiage about glory and heritage, nor the persiflage concerning the destiny of nations, but the essential message, that there are two types of human beings - us and the others, the ones who are to blame. And, as always happens, wherever this message is listened to, someone died. On Monday it was the quiet Moroccan.Reuse content