France: Thousands of students demonstrate against ultra-right
The BBC reports that thousands of students have demonstrated in France against the ultra-right party the Front National (FN) led by Marine Le Pen, which won the recent EP elections there. Approximately 4 000 young people gathered in Paris while others protested in Bordeaux, Nantes, in front of the EP in Strasbourg, and in Toulouse.
French nationalists will now have 24 MEPs instead of three, as they won 25 % of the vote. The right-wing xenophobic populists focused their program on tax reduction, restricting immigration, and abolishing dual citizenship.
Ms Le Pen has previously demanded a return from the euro to the franc and has even promised a referendum on withdrawing from the EU should she win the presidential elections. After their current victory the party let it be known that the voters are demanding "just one kind of politics - French politics for the French and with the French."
The demonstrators in Paris carried signs reading "No to the FN" or "Dear Europe, we apologize". "What lies behind the FN's anti-EU rhetoric are xenophobic speeches, hatred, and rejection of difference, which seems completely improbable in today's world," protester Kevin Motillon told the Associated Press.
It is nevertheless true that in comparison with previous protests against the populist party, participation in this demonstration was very low, according to the BBC. Le Pen is reportedly doing her best to rid the FN of the reputation as an extremist organization that it earned when the party was led by her father.
Ms Le Pen, however, often behaves similarly to him. The European Parliament has previously stripped her of immunity for inciting racial intolerance.
The charge is related to a public appearance in 2010 in Lyon during which she compared Muslims praying outdoors in France to the occupation of the country by Nazis. Prior to this year's EP vote, Ms Le Pen said she was not afraid of being stripped of immunity and that she stands by what she said.
Ms Le Pen has also referred to herself as a "dissident". Her father, Jean-Marie, is the honorary chair of the NF and has previously been given a suspended prison sentence for denying Nazi crimes.
Mr Le Pen claimed the gas chambers were a "mere detail" in the history of WWII. In 1987 he was fined 1.2 million francs for the remark.
The honorary NF chair later repeated his remark on the floor of the European Parliament when it was in session. He is also known for other very controversial remarks of a similar nature, for example, that the Nazi occupation of France "was not especially inhumane".
Recently, for example, Mr Le Pen said while discussing the global "population explosion" and the "problem" of migration that "Monseigneur Ebola [i.e., the deadly Ebola virus] could solve that in three months." He was then clearly condemned by German Social Democrat Martin Schultze, who called him an "old fascist" and "Holocaust denier".
In the past the FN has been backed by the websites of two Czech extremist groups that no longer exist, the National Party and the Workers' Party. Populist or ultra-right parties succeeded in the EP elections in many countries.