The police killing of a North African teen has sparked widespread unrest in France, exposing the depth of discontent in impoverished communities and providing a new platform for the growing far right.
The far-right’s anti-immigration rhetoric is seeping into its once hardcore political divide with mainstream politics. Now, voices are growing in favor of a hard line on immigration, not only blaming migrants for the burning of cars and other violence following the June 27 killing of 17-year-old Nahel Merzouk, but also Immigrants were also blamed for social problems in France.
“We know the reasons for the riots in France,” Bruno Retailleau, head of the conservative group that controls the French Senate, said on France-Info broadcaster last week. “Unfortunately for the second generation, the third generation, there’s kind of a regression to their origin, their ethnic origin.”
Reiterlot’s remarks, which drew accusations of racism, reflected the current course of his mainstream Republican Party, whose top priorities for preventing France’s “long descent into chaos” include “stopping mass immigration”.
“Once we tried to take a stand, they said, ‘Oh la la,'” Retailleau said Tuesday on RTL radio. Scandal! Fascism is coming! You guys are like the National Rally,” the main far-right party. “We’re tired of being politically correct. “
His response marks the latest rupture in a shaky concept known as the “Republican Front,” under which French parties, regardless of their political color, used to unite against the far right.
By linking immigration to unrest, Reiterlot violated France’s near-sacred universal value that all citizens, regardless of their origin, are considered exclusively French.
The far right appears to have taken advantage of the sudden shift in mood across the country to gain further ground: Shock and fear over Merzouq’s death quickly turned into shock and fear of violent riots that spread from the suburbs of major urban areas to cities and small towns. City. town france. In just four days, a far-right crowdfunding campaign raised more than 1.5 million euros ($1.6 million) for the family of the police officer accused of killing Naher.
The far right has long blamed France’s social problems on immigrants from Muslim-majority North Africa and the failure of some immigrants to assimilate into French culture.
“What we suffer from is a completely anarchic immigration,” French far-right leader Marine Le Pen of the National Rally said last week on France 2 television. She claimed the riots were the work of “a vast majority of young people of foreign origin or of foreign origin” and said “these young people have somehow lost touch with French society”.
Le Pen’s critics point out that successive French governments have failed to integrate newcomers into society, and that communities with immigrant backgrounds face disproportionately higher levels of poverty, unemployment and entrenched discrimination.
But the far-right leader’s voice is increasingly resonating in France. Le Pen has spent years reshaping the image of her national assembly and won a strong seat in parliament with 88 lawmakers in legislative elections a year ago. Le Pen is now at the heart of the French system.
Le Pen’s party has gradually gained a foothold among French voters. She won more than 41% of the support in the second round of the presidential election last year.
The pollster Ifop said after a recent survey showed a steady increase in voters voting for Le Pen’s party, “there are virtually no more categories of the population that are immune to the (far-right) vote”.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist government has taken a tough stance on the latest violence but questioned Le Pen’s characterization of the rioters, Interior Minister Gerald Dalmanin said. (Gerald Darmanin) emphasized that only 10% are foreigners. During a Senate hearing last week, he pointed out that some children with immigrant backgrounds are on the police force.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne criticized a GoFundMe campaign for the officer’s family for not being helpful in times of stress. But its success appears to reflect calls for security, another big issue on the far right.
Jean Messiha, a former official with National Rally and the upstart far-right Resurrection Party, said the fund had such a huge response that he unleashed a “tsunami” of support for law enforcement officers, “who every day in one way or another Fight so that France remains France.”
France’s far right has many faces in and out of politics, from national rallies to Eric Zemour’s Liberation campaign, whose vice-president is Le Pen’s niece Marion Marechal. Both Zemur and Marechal support the racist theory of the “Great Replacement,” a conspiracy to undercut white influence and replace culture, particularly through immigration.
A far-right movement exists in France’s fringes, including conspiracy theorists, whose potential for violence worries authorities.
“The risk of terrorism it raises in Western democracies, especially in France, has increased in recent years,” Nicolas Lerner, head of France’s internal security agency DGSI, said in a rare interview with Le Monde. Extremists, he said, believe they must fulfill their national duty to protect Europe from terrorists and “a great alternative,” and one way to do this is to “stir conflict while there is still a chance to a chance to win.” time. “
He noted that fringe activists have thwarted 10 attacks since 2017.
Mainstream politics has not been vaccinated.
Even within mainstream politics, the tone of political discourse can help shape the far right, Lerner warned.
“Last year’s presidential and legislative elections … were marked by debates that reflected the traditional concerns of the far right, particularly on immigration, with a tendency to channel energy,” he said.