Members of left-wing political parties and associations demonstrated across France, yesterday (June 12) in a series of ‘Marches for Freedom’ (Marche des Libertés), with organisers saying 70,000 people took part.
Police put the number much lower, at 9,000 protestors in Paris and 37,000 nationwide.*
Protestors marched in 140 towns to denounce what they called “attacks on freedom” due to the rise in support for far-right parties, and laws that they say are “killing freedoms”.
As well as 9,000 in Paris (according to the police), there were around 1,200 reported in Rennes. 1,000 in Toulouse, between 500-1,000 in Strasbourg, more than 600 in Nancy, 450 in Besançon, and almost 300 apiece in Avignon and Pau
Around 100 organisations were represented, especially in Paris, including human rights campaigners la Ligue des droits de l'homme, la Cimade, Oxfam and Attac; and climate groups Youth for climate and France nature environnement.
Representatives from all left-leaning parties were also present, including leaders Jean-Luc Mélenchon (La France Insoumise) and Benoît Hamon (Génération.s, formerly the Socialist Party), and unions la CGT, FSU, le Syndicat de la magistrature, and Unef.
Two people were arrested and placed in police custody for the alleged ‘flouring’ - throwing flour over as a form of protest - of Mr Mélenchon, who is a somewhat controversial figure even among the left.
Mr Mélenchon later reportedly said: “I am alive, everything is fine, it’s only flour.”
Jean-Luc Mélenchon (ainsi que les journalistes sur place) viennent d'être enfarinés par une personne non identifiée à la #MarcheDesLibertés. Réaction de #Mélenchon : "Je suis vivant tout va bien ce n'est que de la farine". #12juin pic.twitter.com/TnQNh1uiyn— BLAST (@blast_france) June 12, 2021
Eric Coquerel, from la France Insoumise, hailed the marches as a success.
He told France Info: "The side of freedom, of the fight against the far-right, against racism, must show again its potential for fighting back, this was the point [of the march].
"In France, there is not only the far right, the far-right agenda, the far-right themes that the government is after; the classic right. [But] there are also people who are totally opposed to this vision of things. That's what we did today with great success [show our opposition to the right]."
*There is often a significant difference in France between the protestor numbers given by the authorities and those given by the organisers, due to the fact they do not use the same methods to count people.
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