Antifa brought their signature brand of political violence and antagonism to the streets of Marseille as supporters of French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen gathered for her final rally before Sunday’s first round of voting.
In scenes that have become all-to-familiar as of late, the roving bands of anarchists and communists, mostly dressed in black and with their faces hidden, created chaos, lit things on fire and deployed small explosives at police.
They marched with signs and banners reading “Migrants Welcome” and “The extreme right can’t be fought at the ballot box.”
“Marine Le Pen coming to Marseille, a city of strong immigration, is provocation,” said one of the anti-free speech activists. “I protest because when the extreme right is in power, it will be over.”
“As a communist, I came to lend a hand to an anti-fascist movement,” said another, a member of a youth communist group.
Yesterday's protest in Marseille against Le Pen and Front National. pic.twitter.com/86ZQHhXogj
— Lorena de la Cuesta (@LorenadlaCuesta) April 20, 2017
Left-wing intimidation tactics could backfire and drive undecided voters – nearly one in three as of just days ago – into the waiting arms of Le Pen and her Front National party, as they work to condense support and carry her to a critical first round victory over her opponents.
Approximately 10,000 of Le Pen’s supporters were in attendance.
Just days ago, French anti-terrorism police thwarted an ‘imminent attack’ being planned in Marseilles by ISIS operatives that was reportedly intended to assassinate a presidential candidate.
Now: Hundreds protest against Le Pen's rally in Marseille, France. pic.twitter.com/9RKR2w68Ha
— Lorena de la Cuesta (@LorenadlaCuesta) April 19, 2017
Le Pen has sharpened her message as of late, focusing on national security and immigration, and even proposing a temporary freeze on legal immigration.
“I would decide on a moratorium on all legal immigration to stop this frenzy, this uncontrolled situation that is dragging us down,” she told her supporters at a rally on Monday night. “I will protect you. My first measure as president will be to reinstate France’s borders.”
“Behind mass immigration, there is terrorism. Give us France back. I have heard this appeal everywhere I have been.”
Le Pen and Emanuel Macron are currently neck-and-neck in the polls, holding a small lead over mainstream conservative François Fillon and communist darling, Jean-Luc Melenchon.
The top two vote-getters will advance to the election’s second round in May, barring any single candidate securing over 50% of the vote.