Eric Zemmour: Far-right French presidential candidate put in a head-lock by protester

The far-right candidate’s first political rally was marred by protests and clashes

Sravasti Dasgupta
Monday 06 December 2021 11:17
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French presidential candidate Eric Zemmour is put in a headlock at campaign rally

French far-right candidate Eric Zemmour, who announced his bid for presidency last week, was put in a headlock by a protester at his first election campaign rally on Sunday which was marred by clashes and protests.

Mr Zemmour, 63, who has been convicted twice for inciting hate and is known for his hardline stance on Islam and immigration, held his first campaign rally in Villepinte, a suburb near Paris.

“The stakes are huge: if I win it will be the start of winning back the most beautiful country in the world,” he said at the rally.

The event saw protests as violence and clashes broke out, agencies reported.

One protester who threw a punch while Mr Zemmour was entering was taken out of the venue by the police.

Videos from the event showed a protester put Mr Zemmour in a headlock before he was extracted by the police.

Anti-racism activists who were carrying signs saying “No to Racism” were allegedly hit with chairs and tables. Reports said that at least two activists were seen bleeding as they were removed from the auditorium too. Social media images showed one man punching a woman.

The event also saw security officials cracking down on the media present there, with a crew from the popular but critical Quotidien nightly TV news show booed and subsequently removed from the venue.

The event drew criticism from the Socialist party, which called it an assault on peaceful protesters.

Socialist party head Olivier Faure blamed Mr Zemmour in a tweet and said, “Does anyone have any doubt now what motivates the Villepinte activists?”

Known for his hate speech and using outrage for political benefits, Mr Zemmour, confirmed his political ambitions and announced last Tuesday that he will be running in next April’s presidential elections.

Mr Zemmour, a former television commentator, has become the top contender to challenge Marine Le Pen, leader of the more established far-right National Rally party, for a place in the second round against the current president, Emmanuel Macron.

Announcing his candidacy, Mr Zemmour said: “For a long time I was happy with the role of journalist ... but I no longer trust that a politician will have the courage to save the country from the tragic fate that awaits it.

“You feel like you are no longer in the country you once knew... you are foreigners in your own country. We must give back the power to the people, take it back from minorities that oppress the majority,” he added.

At the rally on Sunday, he vowed to end immigration tighten the naturalisation process, and expel failed asylum seekers and illegal immigrants.

He repeated the “replacement theory” often used by White supremacists to suggest that immigrants are replacing French people.

While he has led opinion polls ahead of Ms Le Pen for a few weeks, recent polls show suggest that if elections were to be held now, Mr Zemmour would be defeated by Ms Le Pen, who, in turn, is tipped to be defeated by Mr Macron.

Mr Zemmour was convicted of hate speech in 2010 after justifying discrimination against Black and Arab people, and of incitement to religious hatred for anti-Islam comments in 2016.

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