Far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour launches his presidential campaign in front of thousands of supporters at an event marred by fighting and anti-fascist protests.
Thousands of anti-fascist protesters have rallied against far-right Eric Zemmour, who held his first campaign rally near Paris, a few days after he formally declared his candidacy for April's presidential election in a video relaying his anti-migrants and anti Islam views.
Sunday's anti-Zemmour event was organised by over 50 organisations including far-left political parties, unions and anti-racist groups.
Protesters at the rally in Paris shouted "Zemmour, go away" and "No fascism without fascists" while brandishing flags.
Zemmour, 63, has drawn comparisons in France 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.
He has gained strength on France's political scene in recent months, starting to siphon off supporters from far-right National Party leader Marine Le Pen, who has long said she would run for the French presidency next year.
In pictures: French anti-far-right demonstrators rally in Paris to protest against candidacy of far-right Eric Zemmour for 2022 presidential election on his first official campaign rally pic.twitter.com/NDI8zEymDb— TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) December 5, 2021
A 'tool of capitalist class'
"I come from an organisation that has always fought fascism throughout history, and Mr. Zemmour is someone who has a great love, in particular, for Marshal Petain and for the fascist ideology," said Vincent Benaben, a railway worker and trade unionist:
"He [Zemmour] has been convicted several times for defending racial hatred. It goes against the values universally of the working class that my organisation carries, and in which I believe, and that is why it is important to be here today because it is out of the question for this man to come and do a meeting in my city."
Protesters also chanted "We do not forget, we do not forgive, Zyed, Bouna, Theo and Adama", in reference of victims who died from racist police aggressions.
"He is the tool of the capitalist class in power, in order to respond to all the recent demonstrations – the yellow vests, the pension reform, the climate movement, the Black Lives Matter movement – which made the bosses and the shareholders tremble," said Rafael Henri, a student.
Zemmour lauches 'reconquest' of France
Speaking at his first political rally, Zemmour promised "reconquest" against decades of decline as scuffles with anti-racism protesters broke out on its fringes.
Zemmour promised to slash immigration and taxes to cheers from flag-waving supporters that organisers put at 15,000. A Reuters news aegncy count put their number at around 10,000.
"Thanks to all of you, the reconquest has been launched, the reconquest of our economy, the reconquest of our security, the reconquest of our identity, the reconquest of our sovereignty, the reconquest of our country," Zemmour told his supporters in a nearly an hour and a half-long speech.
"Before next summer, I want to limit the right to asylum to a handful of individuals each year to give back sense to this misguided right," he said.
He said he aimed to bring immigration to zero if elected and cut taxes for the working class and companies while abolishing inheritance tax on family businesses.
"From the next school year, we will again make schools an instrument of French assimilation and we will chase away from our children's classrooms pedagogism, left-wing pro-Islam and LGBT ideologies," he said.
Zemmour also said he would pull France out of the integrated military command of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
"We are France, we are not vassals of the United States, we are not vassals of NATO or the European Union," he said.
Zemmour supporters threw punches and chairs at several protesters wearing anti-racism T-shirts trying to stand on chairs.
Police also arrested several dozen anti-Zemmour protesters and chased away others near the giant convention hall north of Paris.