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France seeks to ban ultra-right group suspected of attacking anti-racists

Interior minister begins legal action to dissolve Zouaves group after brawl at rally for far-right presidential candidate

France’s interior minister is seeking to dissolve an “ultra right” group suspected of attacking anti-racism protesters who entered a campaign rally held by the far-right presidential candidate Éric Zemmour.

Dec 5, 2021: French far-right candidate Zemmour’s first presidential campaign rally puts police on alert

The Zouaves, who support Zemmour’s anti-immigration and anti-Islam ideology, are thought to be behind the brawl, which happened eight days ago.

Members from the anti-racial discrimination group SOS Racisme were set upon after they entered the rear of the venue to protest against Zemmour. The group said it had aimed to protest peacefully but five of its members were injured.

In one clip taken that night, a man was caught violently punching the head of a young woman who was wearing a “No to racism” T-shirt. Other assailants kicked and threw chairs at protesters. After the meeting, police said they had identified about 50 people linked to the Zouaves who posed for a picture and chanted: “On est chez nous” (this is our home), according to AFP.

On Sunday, the interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, said he had begun legal action to have the Zouaves movement outlawed and hoped the State Council would agree to the ban.

“I have initiated the procedure to dissolve this de facto grouping that are the Zouaves, which is a group of people who come from either the GUD [a former far-right student union] or Action Française, that is to say, well-known ultra-right movements,” Darmanin told French media.

Marion Jacquet-Vaillant, a doctor of political science specialising in extreme “identity” groups, said the Zouaves Paris organisation brought together “people from other groups for quick, violent actions”. Some members also belonged to Génération Identitaire, a far-right “paramilitary” group the French government banned in March.

Jul 16, 2021: The Rise of France’s Far Right Youth

Jean-Yves Camus, a political analyst from the Jean-Jaurès Foundation thinktank, added that the group was “above all, ultra-violent and ultra-right”.

“They have by far one of the most violent pedigrees of all far-right groups,” Camus told Ouest-France.

“Their only raison d’être is to fight … fight against antifa, leftwingers in general, anything seen as feminist, LGBT, pro-migrants … etc,” he added.

He said the group had no robust ideology. “There are no precise references, nor any intellectual reasoning. It’s a fight to defend French identity, full stop.”

Zouaves were originally a class of light infantry of the French army between 1830 and 1962 composed mostly of north African colonial recruits, mainly Algerians. The Zouaves were later grouped into regiments composed exclusively of French soldiers which fought in Crimea, Italy during both world wars, in Indochina and in Algeria – before being dissolved in 1962. In French slang, “to be a Zouave” is to play the fool.

The Zouaves are suspected of being behind several violent assaults in recent years, including attacks on football supporters waving Algerian flags in Paris during the 2018 World Cup held in Russia and against a radio journalist during a protest last year. They have also been linked to violence at Gilets Jaunes demonstrations.

Made up almost entirely of men in their 20s and 30s, Zouaves is believed to have no formal structure but gravitates around a dozen members that get together to carry out hit-and-run actions.

Dec 13, 2021: French Far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour, who is on a three-day trip to Armenia, has called to defend “endangered” Armenian Christians caught in the middle of “an Islamic ocean.”

Last month, five Zouaves members appeared in court after an attack on a Paris bar reportedly known to be frequented by antifascists where drinkers were attacked with baseball bats and teargas.

The public prosecutor has opened an investigation into the violence at Zemmour’s meeting.

Oct 19, 2021: ‘French Trump’ Eric Zemmour threatening to upset presidential election

Dominique Sopo, the president of SOS Racisme, told Franceinfo radio: “You either have to be drunk with racism or be certain of your omnipotence to be able to act like that in front of cameras. It’s absolutely astonishing and it shows what this candidate is and what the public he draws is and who the militants who gathered there are.”


Published by amongthefray

News with a historical perspective. Fighting against misinformation, hate, and revisionist history.

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