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Hollande booed at Armistice Day commemoration

AFP

Around 70 people were arrested at an Armistice Day memorial ceremony in Paris on Monday after protesters booed President François Hollande and scuffled with police.

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French police arrested around 70 people at an Armistice Day memorial ceremony in Paris on Monday after President François Hollande was booed by protesters.

It was the first time a French head of state has been heckled at a November 11 commemoration, which marks the signing of the armistice in 1918 to end World War I, French media said.

Police scuffled with protesters as Hollande’s motorcade drove up the Champs-Elysées to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which lies beneath the Arc de Triomphe, one of the French capital’s most famous monuments.

‘Unacceptable’

Some of the protesters shouted “Hollande, step down,” branding the president a “socialist dictator”. Speaking after the incident, Interior Minister Manuel Valls said that some of the demonstrators were affiliated with far-right organisations that have spoken out against the socialist-led government’s policies, including its recent legalisation of same-sex marriage.

“Today on the Champs-Elysées, several dozen individuals linked to the far right ... did not want to respect this moment of contemplation and gathering,” Valls told reporters, describing their actions as “unacceptable”.

One protester told BFM-TV that the boos and jeers exclusively targeted Hollande.

“I find it absolutely shameful that we don’t have the right to speak up without being arrested,” said the woman. “Saying ‘Hollande, step down’ is not offensive.”

“We have the impression that he’s not listening so we have to protest,” she said, without explaining why she wanted the president to resign.

Hollande’s waning popularity

A CSA poll published last Friday showed Hollande’s popularity ratings, pummelled by an ailing economy, heavy taxes and other issues, at the lowest level of any president since the founding of France’s Fifth Republic 55 years ago.

Protests have forced Hollande to give ground over planned tax increases, including most recently a new levy on heavy trucks that mobilised hundreds in the western region of Brittany. Hollande has now deferred but not scrapped the levy.

France’s far-right National Front party, however, has seen its popularity surge on the back of the widespread public discontent ahead of municipal and European elections scheduled for next year.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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