France’s other rally: Triumphant, and foreboding

Paul Wells sends a dispatch from Beaucaire in France, where Marine Le Pen’s counter-rally drew an ominous response from the crowd


 
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French far-right Front National leader Marine Le Pen, centre, walks with the crowd during a march for the victims of the recent shootings in France, while in Beaucaire, southern France. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)

French far-right Front National leader Marine Le Pen, centre, walks with the crowd during a march for the victims of the recent shootings in France, while in Beaucaire, southern France. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)

Of course the immense Paris rally wasn’t the only gathering in France on Sunday. The 1,000 people who gathered in the courtyard of the 17th-century town hall in Beaucaire, three hours by train and taxi from the Paris rally and less than one-thousandth its size, would not have been worth particular mention if it weren’t for the main speaker.

She was Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Front party. In the first day or so after Wednesday’s Charlie Hebdo massacre, leaders of France’s ruling Socialist party made a show of refusing to invite Le Pen. The National Front has long been defined by mainstream parties as outside the so-called Republican consensus: its strong anti-immigration policies and its history, under Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie Le Pen, of thinly-veiled anti-Semitism allowed other parties to marginalize it.

Related reading:
France’s far right keeps it in the family
Scenes from Paris’s unity rally

But things have changed lately. The younger Le Pen is not glamorous, but she seems less of a relic than her father. She has switched polarity on at least one key issue, actively courting Jewish voters instead of seeming, as her father often did, to be baffled by their existence. And on a bad day—and France had three very bad days in a row this week—her warnings about the nasty effects of immigration can seem prophetic to a growing portion of the French electorate. Even before the week’s slaughter, she was twice as popular as François Hollande, and that effect has been sustained over time; she has been able to translate it into electoral breakthroughs, including in Beaucaire, a dingy village near the Mediterranean coast whose young rookie mayor is in the National Front.  

Excluding Le Pen from the main Paris rally was, it became immediately obvious, a huge mistake, because it allowed her to seem the victim of out-of-touch elites, a preferred stance of hers. Hollande paused from planning simultaneous police raids on two hostage standoffs on Friday to declare that any citizen could come to the rally, an attempt to defuse his party’s Le Pen gaffe. Too late. While her father, still a popular figure in the party, demonstrated his exquisite tin ear by stating that he would never “defend the spirit of Charlie Hebdo” because “it’s an anarcho-Trotskyist spirit that dissolves political morality,” Marine Le Pen moved instead to embrace the national mood — but on her terms.

In a video declaration on Saturday, she said National Front leaders would mourn the dead, not in Paris with Hollande and other people “who represent everything France hates,” but in the regions, “where the spirit of tolerance is strongest, where sectarianism is less violent.” Whatever damage it might do to logic, this was political judo of a high order.

And so Le Pen appeared with Beaucaire Mayor Julien Sanchez and a few other party worthies at 3 p.m., just as the Paris march got under way. Beforehand, police announced to the crowd that there would be no march, “out of security concerns.” Low-wattage speakers seemed to suggest speeches would be substituted instead. But at first Le Pen opted instead to wander through the crowd shaking hands. The great majority of the crowd, composed largely but not entirely of National Front sympathizers, found this frustrating. Derisive whistles and chants of “Marine au balcon!” [Get up to the balcony, Marine!] ensued.

So eventually a work crew dismantled the speakers and moved them upstairs to the balcony overlooking the courtyard. Here is my smartphone video of Le Pen’s short speech. In the spirit of the day it was devoid of partisan sniping, unlike the video in which she announced her plans.

What is perhaps most interesting is the crowd’s reaction after Le Pen finishes speaking. Spectators deliver a spontaneous rendition of La Marseillaise, France’s national anthem — and then chant “On est chez nous.” It translates simply enough, as “We are at home” or “This is our home.” But the strong implication is that other people in France aren’t at home. The party has used the slogan in a poster calling for the end of “anti-French racism” and the party’s secretary general has called the slogan “a cry from the heart, the French have had it up to here with being pariahs in their own country.”

When a speech by the woman who is sometimes France’s most popular political leader ends this way, it’s hard to believe spirits will be calming in France anytime soon.


 

France’s other rally: Triumphant, and foreboding

  1. when “progressive” or liberal politicians don’t address the concerns of their populace……this is the result.

    With ovr 750 “no go zones” in France for non-Muslim’s, it’s not like Hollande and others’ didn’t know this could be the result of their inaction.

    when a Frene citizen isn’t safe travelling in his or her own country due to Muslim extremists….there should be no surprises when these non-Muslim citizens start to get very angry.

  2. Utter rubbish.

    Don’t make stuff up.

    • Your comment aimed at James, or at Paul?

      Either way, how about backing your claim that “stuff” is being made up? And “Because Emily says so” is NOT sufficient evidence… for anything.

      • At James.

        And if you don’t recognize what he says as rubbish, you’re as ignorant as he is.

        France has more Muslims than any country in Europe….and it’s only 8%

        France invited them in you know….after the war…as guest workers to replace their missing men….then didn’t allow them to integrate.

        Les banlieues are the poor sections where they live. Poverty, unemployment….and then to top it off….insults.

        The French are famous for their rudeness….maybe it’s time they changed.

        • Well, it’s bound to happen from time to time, but I agree with you completely Emily, and it’s nice to see at least one other person posting here who recognizes the racism that these tragic events have brought to the surface (though it’s never very far beneath it) for what it is.

          Millions upon millions of Muslims live peacefully amongst people of other races and religions around the world every day, but a few of them commit a crime and suddenly they’re all on trial for it. That is the very epitome of racism.

          This is the same brand of logic that sees some Jewish people running a bank and then makes the leap to all Jews being part of a worldwide, nefarious conspiracy (and I hope we can all bear in mind what the incitement of mass, racist hatred in Europe lead to last time). Of course, hating Jews isn’t as fashionable is conservative circles as it used to be, as Wells points out in his piece, so they have to project their hatred and ignorance onto another group. Nothing like irrational fear to fire up the base. By the sounds of their rhetoric, fear might not be the only thing they want fired up.

          • Joe wrote:
            “at least one other person posting here who recognizes the racism that these tragic events have brought to the surface (though it’s never very far beneath it) for what it is.”

            Umm…Joe, and Emily. Religon is NOT race. Muslim’s come in all different colours and races. The one thing they have in common however, is that when it comes to religion, race doesn’t prevent muslim’s from committing atrocities wherever they go.

            As for Conservatives and anti-semitism…sorry. Conservatives are the one group that Jews can count on to stand with them against barbarism. Just look at Harper. He’s as conservative as they come, and he’s stood with Israel throughout their fight against terrorism.

          • There is no such thing as race James….we’re all the same species…..and religion is just a belief.

            But religions commit atrocities Jim….all of them

          • Emily deluded:

            “There is no such thing as race James….we’re all the same species…..and religion is just a belief.”

            Emily, if that is the case, then how do you explain your propensity to label anyone you disagree with as a “racist?”
            Isn’t that a contradiction? You claim there is no such thing as race…and yet, when you lose an argument, your go to attack is racist. Hmm…

            But religions commit atrocities Jim….all of them

            Ok, Emily…..which religion other than ISLAM…has an organized war against anyone who doesn’t adhere to their own religion? Which religion has been causing the mayhem and murder throughout the world?

            You are such an idiot. Keep up the good work.

          • “Religon is NOT race. Muslim’s come in all different colours and races.”

            This is true. However, the mass majority of terrorist groups are racially Arabic, and therefore when people like yourself preach their intolerance, it’s usually directed at Arabs, though for many it extends to anyone from the Middle-East and to converts as well. But generally speaking, the fear is of brown people.

            So, yes, you’re not just bigoted against Arabs. That’s not something most people would be proud of.

            “As for Conservatives and anti-semitism…sorry. Conservatives are the one group that Jews can count on to stand with them against barbarism. Just look at Harper. He’s as conservative as they come, and he’s stood with Israel throughout their fight against terrorism.”

            If you’d bothered to read my comment, you’d see that I said “hating Jews isn’t as fashionable is conservative circles as it used to be”, indicating past tense. If you also had bothered to read Well’s piece, you’d see that my comment related to something he said in it.

            Hating Jews as long been a part of right-wing circles, though not all of them. The more mainstream branches of conservatism in North America and Europe dropped this decades ago, for instance. But there are plenty of more extreme right wing groups on both continents that still preach hatred toward them. If you knew anything at all about history, you’d know that.

          • “But religions commit atrocities Jim….all of them”

            Religions don’t commit atrocities anymore than science kills people. People can use any sort of ideology to kill people (including atheism, see: China), and people can use things made by scientists to kill people (see all modern weaponry). The common denominator is people who want to commit acts of violence, whether it’s to take something they want or simply for the pleasure of killing someone they hate.

            Your anti-religion fanaticism is idiotic, Emily.

          • Joe noted:

            “However, the mass majority of terrorist groups are racially Arabic, and therefore when people like yourself preach their intolerance, it’s usually directed at Arabs”

            Thanks for making my point. I won’t even call you a racist for stating the obvious. The iranians however, are Persian, and they are making a pretty good run at catching up to the arabs.

            I pointed out your anti-semetic remarks, because Conservtive anti-semitism is pretty much non-existent. The anti-semites today are mainly found in the NDP, or teaching at Canadian Universities.

            Joe also notes:
            “Religions don’t commit atrocities anymore than science kills people”

            the problem though, joe….is that it is only ONE RELIGION that is responsible for most of the slaughter we see in terror attacks for the last 100 years. Any guesses which one? (of course, we all alread know the answer to that one)

            Joe goes on:
            “The common denominator is people who want to commit acts of violence, whether it’s to take something they want or simply for the pleasure of killing someone they hate.”

            No Joe, the common denominator is ISLAM and the QURAN….and you know it. It is MUSLIM”s who enjoy the random; yet calculated slaughter of innocent people.

            Jews: Value education, family life, and success or their children.
            Christians – Same, though they tend to bother you with flyers on the weekend when you are having supper.

            Muslim’s….well, we all know what they value. You wrote it yourself.
            “simply for the pleasure of killing someone they hate.”

            Pretty much sums it up.

          • Justin too?

            Well just add him to the list of Obama, Prince Charles and the Pope who are Muslim.

        • Emily noted:

          “France has more Muslims than any country in Europe….and it’s only 8%”

          That’s right, Emily….Muslim’s are still a minority in France.

          How’s that working out for them?

          • Fine….just as soon as they apply ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’

          • Emily wrote:

            “Fine….just as soon as they apply ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’”

            As usual, she misses the point.

            Emily…France already has that, and have had that for quite a while.

            the problem is that they have imported millions of people who don’t believe in it; and they are now facing the consequences.

    • No go zones: Not made up:

      http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/3305/france-no-go-zones

      In fact, if you spend a little time doing your own research, you’ll find the official French Government listing of no-go zones.

      also, google “no go zones – Europe” and you’ll see it isn’t just France with the problem.

      The Common thread of course, is that these areas are no-go zones for anyone who isn’t a muslim.

        • The common thread is that these areas have high levels of POVERTY, numbnuts. You’ll see a similar pattern pretty much everywhere in the world because impoverished people are more likely to commit (and be victims of) violent and property crimes. But you’ll be happy to know that they very seldom cause worldwide economic collapses. That’s rich white man’s work.

          • Joe,

            Poor white Briton’s don’t attack Britons with money when they visit the area. stop being obtuse. Non-Muslim briton’s aren’t safe in Muslim areas because they are not Muslim’s. If a poor non-Muslim Brit went to one of these no-go zones, he or she would still be attacked. It has nothing to do with their economic status.

            As for rich white men….you should just thank us, and continue to cash your assisance cheques.
            You do realize, that if it wasn’t for the rich white men…..you wouldn’t be having this conversation. White men created the interenet along with most other modern conveniences. Sadly, we also created most of the technology that these backward, medieaval desert nations use to attack us.

            And Joe….you’re welcome.

    • Don’t bore people with garbage blog sites please.

      • Emily,

        If you bothered to look at the links, you would realize that one is the work of the Government of France itself.

        If you refuse to get informed, you will continue to reveal yourself as the ignorant hick you seem to be.

  3. A few comments:

    1. According to my friends in Beaucaire (I was not there at the time) most of the attendees at the rally were not from the town. Indeed Mayor Sanchez was elected by a small plurality in a three-way election.
    2. A large part of the population of the center of town (where the rally was held), is North African, meaning that Ms. Le Pen’s visit had extensive significance and was a kick in the face to a large number of local citizens (and yes they are French citizens).
    3. One of the more idiotic of your commenters (JamesHalifax) refers to “’no go zones” in France for non-Muslim’s”. I assume he gets most of his information from faux sources like Fox News. This is simply not true (look at http://www.newscorpse.com/ncWP/?p=24511).
    4. The issue of racism in France is a difficult and complicated one, not easily addressed by simplistic political movements such as the FN. There is a strong pattern of discrimination against Muslims in the country and, due to French history, a strong resistance by most of the population to recognize the extent of the problem.
    5. I am myself an ethnic Jew, so I am quite sensitive and worried about the rise of anti-Semitism among the Muslim population there. As you point out, people like Ms. Le Pen are on a charm offensive with the Jewish population of the country, which scares me even more!
    6. Although I am American I own property in Beaucaire and I resent having the town called “dingy.” It actually is one of the architectural wonders of France. It has hundreds of 15-19th century palaces and mansions, a lovely marina on a canal in the center of town, it is on the Rhone and it has wonderful food, wine and lovely people. Take a look at http://www.mybeaucaire.com/the-beaucaire-region1.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaucaire,_Gard if you do not believe me. Mr. Wells should spend a bit more time in places when he travels. I personally invite him the next time he is in France.

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