France’s far-right National Front (FN) held a demonstration of its own against terrorism on Sunday, after being excluded from a massive unity rally in Paris.
Party leader Marine Le Pen led a demonstration in the FN-controlled southern town of Beaucaire after denouncing what she called the “exclusion” of her party from Paris march, which drew more than a million people in solidarity with the 17 victims of terror attacks this week.
Though debate had raged among French political leaders over whether the generally ostracised FN should be allowed to participate alongside other parties in the Paris demonstration against terrorism, Le Pen claimed she and her supporters had been shunned even though President Francois Hollandehad invited “all citizens” to participate.
Leading a thousand FN marchers in Beaucaire, Le Pen thanked the crowd “for being here and reminding us of the values of liberty,” saluting them from beneath a banner reading “I Am Charlie — Homage to the victims of terrorism.”
The slogan contrasted with the flat rejection Saturday by her father and FN founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, to associate with the “#JeSuisCharlie” (IAmCharlie) slogan which expresses unqualified solidarity the satirical Charlie Hebdo newspaper targeted by Islamist attackers who killed 12 people Wednesday.
“Sorry, but I’m not Charlie,” the elder Le Pen told the Beaucaire crowd in a video message, echoing his long-standing hostility towards the paper that frequently singled him out for merciless satire.
During a press conference later Sunday, Le Pen senior deployed his notorious use of mocking humour to disparage the national march and politicians leading it, by referring to them as “charlots” — the French nickname for Charlie Chaplin that also means “clown.”
“All these people are marching with the placard ‘I Am Charlie,’ when they’re actually ‘charlots’ responsible for the decadence of France,” Le Pen said, adding that French and European leaders “bear the responsibility for what happened” in the attacks by failing to address rising immigration and halting integration of foreigners.
He said he felt compassion for his “fellow citizens” killed in the attack, but railed against the “anarcho-Trotskyist spirit” of Charlie Hebdo which he derided as corrosive to “political morality”.