Protesters march against Le Pen as French campaign enters final stretch
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Several hundred protesters marched in northern Paris on Sunday to protest against far-right National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen, saying that basic freedoms would disappear if she were elected to the French presidency.
With just a week to go before the first round of France's presidential election, the demonstrators marched from the multi-ethnic northern suburb of Aubervilliers to a Paris neighbourhood where Le Pen is scheduled to hold a rally on Monday.
A group of protesters threw firebombs at police, who responded with tear gas during small skirmishes.
Protester Fernanda Marrucchelli said Le Pen's anti-immigration party "is fighting our essential freedoms, our rights, no matter if we are French or immigrant".
A banner at the front of the march read "Paris-Suburbs Against the National Front". Marchers handed out tracts denouncing the xenophobia and racism they associate with Le Pen and the party co-founded by her father.
Denouncing the "extreme-right populism" that has spread around Europe, anti-racism activist Omar Slauti said the fight against the far right should shift to the street, rather than the ballot box.
Le Pen, who wants to pull France out of the European Union, is one of the top contenders in France's first-round presidential vote on April 23.
She is widely tipped to qualify for a second-round runoff, which will be held on May 7 between the top two candidates.
The far-right leader has been at pains to erase the image of racism and anti-Semitism that for years defined the FN, while sticking to the party's core anti-immigrant rhetoric.
She wants to restore a French identity that she claims is being threatened by "massive immigration", mainly from former French colonies in Muslim North Africa.
In an Ifop-Fiducial poll for Le Journal du Dimanche (JDD) newspaper, 86 percent of FN voters said they "no longer feel at home" in France and 73 percent considered Islam incompatible with the French Republic.
But the poll showed Le Pen, who has spent years trying to detoxify the FN's image, still struggling to win over the absolute majority of voters needed for victory in a run-off.
Three-quarters of non-FN voters said the party was "dangerous for democracy" and four out of five found it "racist".
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)
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