Bare-chested Femen activists making Nazi salutes disrupted a speech by France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen for five minutes at her National Front (FN) party’s traditional May 1 rally in Paris on Friday.
Two others members of the militant feminist group had earlier tried to stop Le Pen laying a wreath at a statue of Joan of Arc in the French capital but were unceremoniously bundled away by the party’s security guards.
But the second intervention by three activists who unfurled two red banners reading “Heil Le Pen” and made the Nazi salute on a balcony overlooking the podium on which she was speaking, seemed to destabilise the usually combative leader, who last month made Time magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people.
Le Pen took several minutes to recover her composure enough to hit back with, “Strange how people who call themselves feminists should interrupt a speech in honour of Joan of Arc.”
The trio of activists were unceremoniously dragged from the balcony, with the women claiming they had been struck by party supporters. The FN insisted however that its security guards had acted “very professionally”.
One of the Femen activists, Sarah Constantin, said: “We showed the true fascist face of the FN.”
– Upstaged by father –
On a troubled day for Marine Le Pen, her father Jean-Marie Le Pen had earlier done his best to upstage her by striding uninvited onto the podium at Opera to take the ovation of the crowd.
The party’s 86-year-old founder had been conspicuously dropped from the line-up of leaders on stage following a fierce public feud with his daughter after he repeated claims that Nazi gas chambers were merely a “detail of history” — comments that have seen him convicted in the past for denying the Holocaust.
Marine Le Pen has been actively trying to distance the party from its racist and anti-Semitic past as she plans her bid for the next French presidential election in 2017.
Two French TV camera crews were also attacked by the party’s supporters during the march before being rescued by party officials and security guards.
The France 5 channel said members of its crew were punched in the back and the neck while Canal+ said one of its cameras was broken.
Bruno Gollnisch, a veteran FN lawmaker who sits in the European Parliament, said Canal+ had been trying to record his “private conversations” with a microphone boom. In the melee, he was caught on video striking a Canal+ journalist with an umbrella while grabbing the boom.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls condemned this “awful spectacle of the extreme right that never changes” in a tweet.
In another pointed gesture, Paris’s Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo marked the 20th anniversary of the murder of Moroccan-born Brahim Bouarram, who died after being pushed into the river Seine by National Front activists after their May Day rally in 1995.