Left-wing activists and supporters rallied in central Paris on Thursday after the death of a young campaigner who was attacked by far-right extremists. They said the brutal murder was the result of an unchecked resurgence of far-right groups.
A simple sign held by a gray-haired and bespectacled man seemed to sum up the idea burning in the minds of hundreds of people gathered in central Paris on Thursday evening. Almost lost among the competing, bright banners of different political camps, and the anger radiating from some youths who partially obscured their faces, the sign read: “Dissolve all fascist groups”.
The crowd had come together at the Saint Michel fountain, near the Notre Dame Cathedral, to honour the memory of Clément Méric. The 18-year-old anti-fascism activist was savagely beaten by skinheads while out shopping in the French capital the previous day.
Just hours before the rally was scheduled to start, news spread that Méric had died of his injuries.
The gathering, which attracted a mix of left-wing sympathizers and political party members, as well as some of Méric’s fellow activists and classmates, turned out to be far from a congenial and solemn event, with passions soaring out of control at times.
However, everyone seemed to agree that the teenager’s death was the logical result of a surge among far-right groups in France, which are lately enjoying -- and exploiting -- a laissez-faire attitude toward their views.
The International League of Human Rights, which participated in the rally, said that racially motivated and homophobic attacks by far-right groups have been on the rise for weeks.
“We are concerned about the rise of extremist right-wing positions in mainstream politics,” Eric Bakerdjian, the group’s president, told FRANCE 24 at the rally in reference to the recent electoral success of the far-right National Front.
National Front leader Marine Le Pen was quick to disassociate herself from Méric’s agressors. "The FN is not linked in any way whatsoever to this unacceptable and intolerable act,” she told RTL radio on Thursday.
But Bakerdjian said that there was also a growing presence of smaller, loosely organised right-wing radical groups that were difficult to circumscribe and nearly impossible to neutralize. “Authorities can try to dissolve them, but they just regroup as different groups,” he noted.
‘Surfing’ on anti-gay marriage movement
Many people at the rally pointed an accusatory finger at the anti-gay marriage movement that organised massive protests in Paris this year. While marches were largely peaceful, some demonstrators adopted a hardline vocabulary and strategy.
Clashes with police and assaults on journalists and counter-protesters became commonplace.
“What happened with the anti-gay marriage movement has something to do with this death. They threw fuel on the fire. They have reignited hatreds that could have existed between different radical movements,” Alexane, a university student at the rally, said.
Alexane and a friend Luala decided to come to the gathering, but admitted they feared right-wing groups had planned to disrupt the event. “To be honest, when we arrived I was relieved to see the riot police was on hand,” Alexane said.
The government has moved quickly to arrest people thought to be linked to Méric’s murder. In the meantime, more rallies in honour of the murdered youth have been organised for the coming days.
Date created : 2013-06-06