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France bans extreme-right group over violence against anti-racists at Zemmour rally

Decree says Zouaves Paris group propagated ‘openly racist discourse;’ members blamed for attacks on protestors at Jewish far-right presidential candidate’s campaign event

Supporters of French far-right media pundit and 2022 presidential candidate Eric Zemmour waves French national flags during a campaign rally in Villepinte, near Paris, on December 5, 2021. (Julien De Rosa/AFP)
Supporters of French far-right media pundit and 2022 presidential candidate Eric Zemmour waves French national flags during a campaign rally in Villepinte, near Paris, on December 5, 2021. (Julien De Rosa/AFP)

PARIS, France — France banned an extreme-right youth group Wednesday known as the “Zouaves Paris,” who are blamed for attacks on anti-racism activists at a raucous rally last month by far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour.

“The group ‘Zouaves Paris’ was banned this morning at a cabinet meeting, in line with the instructions of the President” Emmanuel Macron, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin wrote on Twitter, saying the group had incited “hatred and violence.”

The decree prohibiting the group, founded in 2017 and believed to have only around 20 hardcore members, said it “propagated an openly racist discourse” that included “symbols of Nazi ideology” and “white superiority.”

Members were accused of assaulting activists from SOS Racisme at the December 5 rally by Zemmour shortly after the controversial pundit announced his candidacy for the 2022 presidential elections.

Its leader Marc de Cacqueray-Valmenier, 23, was detained and charged with assault. The group takes its name from elite units of French troops who fought in Africa in the 19th century.

Zemmour, who is Jewish, is accused by opponents of being a racist, an allegation he denies. He has, however, repeatedly criticized Islam and immigration, which he says are harming French identity.

French far-right media pundit and 2022 presidential candidate Eric Zemmour delivers a speech during his campaign rally in Villepinte, near Paris, on December 5, 2021. (Stefano Rellandini/AFP)

The rally was marked by clashes with anti-racism activists, and Zemmour himself was at one point put in a headlock and suffered an injury to his wrist.

Zemmour’s campaign enjoyed a surge in popularity ahead of the declaration of his candidacy, but it appears to have slackened in recent weeks, although most polls still predict he will win around 15 percent in the first round.

He is currently facing a struggle to muster the 500 signatures needed from French mayors to formally register his candidacy.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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