Thousands protest against far right, French unions call for more demos

‘Our Republic and our democracy are in danger’, say the unions

Many young people joined the cross-party protest, holding anti-RN and CGT banners as well as Palestinian flags

Thousands of people in France have protested against the prospect of far-right party Le Rassemblement National coming to power, after President Macron called for snap legislative elections.

There were 6,200 protesters in Toulouse on June 10, and 3,000 in Paris. More than 2,200 people turned out in Marseille, and several local councillors were present. 

Read also: Macron orders dissolution of French parliament: reaction and what now? 

There were also protests in Nantes (4,400 people), Rennes (4,000), Bordeaux (2,800), Lyon (2,800), Grenoble (1,800), Strasbourg (950), and Rouen (800).

Many of the protesters were young, and held banners of the unions CGT and Unef, as well as some Palestinian flags. 

They chanted: “Young people say ‘screw’ the National Front.” The Front National was the name of the far-right party before it became the Rassemblement National.

Unions including the CFDT, the CGT, UNSA, FSU, and Solidaires, issued a statement warning that “our Republic and our democracy are in danger”.

"We need a democratic and social awakening. Otherwise, the far right will come to power,” they said. They are also calling for a reversal of the pension and unemployment insurance reforms as part of this ‘awakening’.

In Paris, there were few police incidents, but the crowds smashed some election signs, and some graffiti was left on the walls, including the messages ‘Ni Macron, ni Bardella’ (‘Neither Macron, nor Bardella’). Shortly before midnight, some of the remaining protesters became more violent, with the police using rockets to disperse them.

In Toulouse, a work vehicle was vandalised, some windows were broken, and rubbish bins were burnt out. Police used tear gas to disperse some rowdier protesters.

The unions have now called for further protests at the weekends, ahead of the election dates (June 30 and July 7). 

‘I trust the French people’

President Macron called the surprise elections on June 9 after the far-right party - led by Jordan Bardella - won the French vote at the European elections with 31.5%. 

Mr Macron said: “I trust the French people’s ability to choose the best choice for themselves and for future generations. France needs a clear majority to be able to make decisions serenely."

Prior to this decision, new legislative elections had only been due in 2027.

Some have said the president is hoping the French people will come out against the far-right when given another chance to vote, while others have suggested that giving more power to the RN (Mr Bardella has already been announced as ready to become prime minister) will call its bluff, and reveal the party to be incompetent.

It is a risky strategy, and reactions to Mr Macron’s decision have been decidedly mixed.