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Thousands March In France Against Far Right Ahead Of Parliament Polls

At least 150 marches were expected in cities including Marseille, Toulouse, Lyon and Lille.

Paris:

Thousands of people marched in Paris and cities across France on Saturday to protest against the far-right Rally National (RN) party ahead of France’s parliamentary elections.

Following the RN’s success in last Sunday’s European elections, trade unions, student groups and human rights groups called for rallies against the anti-immigration, eurosceptic party, and police said they expected 350,000 people to demonstrate, with 21,000 officers deployed.

At least 150 marches were expected in cities including Marseille, Toulouse, Lyon and Lille.

In Paris, where police said 75,000 people took part, the march began at 12 noon GMT from Place de la Republique in the east, past Place de la Bastille and to the Nation.

According to the CGT trade union, 250,000 people took part in the demonstrations in Paris and 640,000 across France, as reported by BFM television. Police said they had arrested seven people in Paris. Police said there were 217,000 protesters across France.

“We are marching because we are very worried that (RN leader) Jordan Bardella will become the next prime minister and we want to prevent this disaster,” Sophie Binet, head of the far-left CGT trade union, told reporters at the Place de la Republique.

Carole Anne Juste, a 22-year-old student who attended the Paris march, said it was her first time participating in a protest. “I’m worried because people are believing the lies of this party that has a really racist tradition,” she said, referring to the National Front, the predecessor to the RN. The party’s leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, has been fined for comments deemed anti-Semitic or xenophobic.

“I want to fight to protect a country of human rights, freedom and tolerance,” Justo said.

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“It’s important to show that we are united and that the Popular Front is not the majority of the people,” said Cecilia Lormo, a 34-year-old teacher at the same march, who said she planned to vote for the Popular Front, a coalition of left-wing parties.

President Emmanuel Macron has called for early parliamentary elections to be held in two phases on June 30 and July 7, following his centre-right coalition’s heavy defeat to the RN in last Sunday’s European Parliament elections.

The first set of opinion polls predict that the RN will win the election and likely form the next government.

An Opinionaire Vaie Solis poll conducted for Les Echos and Radio Classique and published on Saturday projected the RN to take the lead in the first round of parliamentary elections with 33% of the vote, ahead of the Popular Front’s 25%.

Macron’s centrist party got 20%.

At least two opinion polls have shown the Left not far behind the RN and ahead of Macron’s group.

In the city of Tours in western France, hundreds of protesters took part in a demonstration, with banners reading: “For freedom, for rights, for the Social Democratic Republic, against the far-right and against racism.”

Some banners read: “Young people hate the FN (the former name of the RN)”, while pensioners held up a banner that read: “Old people hate the RN too”.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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