Le Pen calls Notre Dame suicide 'eminently political'
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Far-right leader Marine Le Pen has hailed Tuesday’s suicide of a far right activist opposed to gay marriage as an "eminently political act". Dominique Venner shot himself at Paris's Notre Dame Cathedral, filled with 1,500 visitors at the time.
The suicide of a writer and right wing activist at the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris on Tuesday has been hailed as a political act by leaders of France’s far-right National Front party.
Dominique Venner, an author of many history essays that often decried immigration in France and the decline of European civilizations, shot himself in front of the altar of the famous church in the early afternoon.
Police sources said Venner pulled out a pistol and put it in his mouth, before pulling the trigger.
The day before, Venner had left a final essay on his website that suggested his dramatic suicide was intended as a protest against both the recent passing of a bill legalizing gay marriage in France and immigration from Africa.
He also left a message that was read out after his suicide on the conservative station Radio Courtoisie.
"I believe it is necessary to sacrifice myself to break with the lethargy that is overwhelming us," he said in the radio message.
"I am killing myself to awaken slumbering consciences."
Venner’s suicide was later hailed as a political gesture by National Front leader Marine Le Pen.
"All respect to Dominique Venner whose final, eminently political act was to try to wake up the people of France," Le Pen said on Twitter, though she added later that "it is in life and hope that France will renew and save itself".
Bruno Gollnisch, a senior National Front figure and member of the European Parliament also paid tribute to Venner, referring to him as an “extremely brilliant intellectual”.
"I think his dramatic gesture is a protest against the decadence of our society," Gollnisch told BFM TV.
In a final essay on his website, Venner railed against France's adoption of a "vile law" legalising gay marriage and adoption.
The gay marriage bill has sparked numerous protests in France, with many on the right bitterly opposed to the act. The bill was finally signed into law by President François Hollande on Sunday.
Venner also denounced immigration from North Africa which, he said, was the real "peril", calling on activists to take measures to protect "French and European identities".
In what appeared to be a reference to his suicide, Venner wrote: "There will certainly need to be new, spectacular, symbolic gestures to shake off the sleepiness... and re-awaken the memories of our origins."
"We are reaching a time when words must be backed up with acts," he added.
Venner fought for France in the 1954-62 Algerian War of Independence and was a member of the OAS (Secret Armed Organisation), a short-lived paramilitary group that opposed Algeria's independence from France.
He went on to have a long career publishing right-wing essays, military histories and books on weaponry and hunting.
Notre Dame, which this year is celebrating its 850th anniversary, is one of France’s top tourist attractions, with 13.6 million visitors passing through its doors in 2011.
The cathedral contained around 1,500 visitors at the time of the suicide, all of whom were then evacuated without incident, said France’s Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who visited Notre Dame following the incident.
“I can only imagine the shock for these people, both faithful and tourists,” he said.
“Notre Dame … is one of the biggest symbols of the capital and the country and we can only imagine the impact that this [act] will have.”
It was the second dramatic suicide in less than a week in Paris, after a 50-year-old man with a history of family problems shot himself dead Thursday in a primary school near the Eiffel Tower, in front of about a dozen stunned children.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)