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Anti-Le Pen Protests Relentless in France

April 28, 2002|From Associated Press

PARIS — At least 200,000 protesters marched in Paris and other French cities Saturday in a persistent show of anger at far-right presidential candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen's surprise success in the first round of voting last weekend.

Protesters in the capital chanted "Down with the National Front"--Le Pen's nationalist, anti-immigration party. Some beat on drums. One held a sign that read simply, "I'm ashamed."

Protesters have taken to the streets every day since Le Pen came in second with nearly 17% of the vote last Sunday, qualifying for a May 5 runoff against President Jacques Chirac and stunning people in France and abroad.

"We immigrants are afraid," said Tarik Fadili, a 17-year-old high school student who came to France from Morocco when he was 6. "For Le Pen to be in the second round means that a good part of France thinks the same as he does. It makes me sick."

France Info radio put the number of demonstrators throughout the country at more than 200,000 on Saturday. A protest in Grenoble, at the foot of the Alps, drew 20,000, police said, while 15,000 gathered in the Mediterranean port city of Marseille. About 45,000 people marched in Paris, police said.

About 2,000 police were deployed in Paris, but the demonstration was peaceful.

If elected, Le Pen says, he will try to cut France's ties with the European Union and limit immigration, calling last week for "transit camps" to hold illegal immigrants before they are deported.

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