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Violent clashes near first rally of far-right French presidential candidate

Protesters march behind a banner reading 'Paris will block the far right,' during a demonstration against French presidential candidate Eric Zemmour, December 5, 2021, in Paris. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
Protesters march behind a banner reading 'Paris will block the far right,' during a demonstration against French presidential candidate Eric Zemmour, December 5, 2021, in Paris. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)

Anti-racism activists are beaten up as far-right former French TV pundit Eric Zemmour holds his first presidential campaign rally near Paris, a few days after he formally declared his candidacy in a video highlighting his anti-migrant and anti-Islam views.

Zemmour, the son of Jewish immigrants to France, has drawn comparisons to former US president Donald Trump because of his rabble-rousing populism and ambitions of making the jump from the small screen to national leadership in France’s presidential election in April. The 63-year-old, with multiple hate-speech convictions, unveiled his campaign’s slogan: “Impossible is not French,” a quote attributed to Napoleon.

“What’s at stake is huge,” Zemmour says. “If I win that election, it won’t be one more [political] changeover, but the beginning of the reconquest of the most beautiful country in the world.”

AP reporters see some activists dressed in black with “No to racism” on their sweaters being beaten up by people at the rally and brutally taken out of the room. The scuffles continue outside the room between anti-racism activists and security guards.

Reporters from a French television show covering politics are booed and insulted by Zemmour’s supporters ahead of his speech, leading them to be briefly escorted outside the room by security guards.

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