PARIS (Jan. 27)
A parade Saturday through the streets of Paris to protest the racist, anti-Semitic rhetoric of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s far-right National Front was, by most accounts, less than successful.
Organized by some 70 left-wing groups, it drew more than 50,000 demonstrators. But they seemed to be marching to different tunes.
Many who oppose the stringent new measures taken by the French government to curb illegal immigration turned the rally into a protest against an act by President Francois Mitterrand’s Socialist regime as much as against Le Pen’s xenophobic agitation.
The Socialist contingent apparently expected this. Party members marched separately with government ministers in the lead.
Le Pen called the event a “flop.” He claimed that despite large sums of money spent to bring demonstrators to Paris from all over France, relatively few people showed up.
The demonstration was also sharply criticized by the center-left and the right-wing opposition. According to Jacques Chirac’s Gaullist Rally for the Republic, the march only added to Le Pen’s notoriety and helped him increase his audience.
“The sensible way to prevent him from gaining strength is to solve the real problems, like immigration and unemployment, not by marching in the streets,” said Nicolas Sarkozy, a young leader of Chirac’s movement.