VILLEPINTE, France (AP) — Far-right former French TV pundit Eric Zemmour is holding his first campaign rally Sunday near Paris, a few days after he formally declared his candidacy for April’s presidential election in a video relaying his anti-migrants, anti Islam views.
The 63-year-old with multiple hate-speech convictions has unveiled his campaign’s slogan: “Impossible is not French,” a quote attributed to Napoleon.
The rally, which was initially to take place in a Paris concert hall, has been moved to a bigger exhibition center in a northern suburb of the capital.
The move was prompted by security reasons as a protest against Zemmour took place Sunday in the French capital, organized by over 50 organizations including far-left political parties, unions and anti-racist groups. Police had feared possible clashes with Zemmour’s far-right supporters.
In the popular Paris neighborhood of Barbes, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets Sunday, marching behind a banner reading “Paris will silence the far-right.”
Zemmour has gained strength on France’s political scene in recent months, starting to siphon off supporters from far-right National Party leader Marine Le Pen, who has long said she would run for the French presidency next year.
Zemmour’s first rally comes one day after France’s main conservative Republicans party picked its presidential candidate. Valérie Pécresse, the head of the Paris region and a former minister from 2007 to 2012, as its presidential candidate.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who defeated Le Pen in the 2017 presidential runoff, is expected to seek a second term but he has yet to declare his candidacy.
The far-left leader of the Rebel France party, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who is seeking the presidency for the third time, also staged a rally on Sunday, gathering several thousand supporters in Paris.
Other presidential candidates on the left include Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo for the Socialist party and Yannick Jadot, a former Greenpeace activist, for the Greens.