French far-left chief floured in march against far right

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President of the French leftist La France Insoumise party Jean-Luc Melenchon, center, attends a demonstration, Saturday, June 12, 2021 in Paris. Thousands of people rallied throughout France Saturday to protest against the far-right. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly)

PARIS – A French far-left leader got a face full of flour at the start of a Paris march Saturday against “the ideas of the far right,” days after the French president was slapped while greeting a crowd.

Unions, associations and left-wing political parties in France called for demonstrations around France a week before local elections and ahead of next year's presidential election, which is widely expected to once again put far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in the final round.

Lawmaker Jean-Luc Melenchon, head of the far-left France Unbowed party, was taking part in the event in Paris when he got hit with a sack of flour. Melenchon has been at the center of recent controversy for statements against Le Pen's National Rally and notably raising the specter of violence.

Political leaders were not marching in unified ranks on Saturday. Jordan Bardella, No. 2 in the National Rally, was quick to denounce “any physical attack on elected officials." He noted increasing tension on the political landscape.

BFMTV, which spoke with the flour-thrower, said the young man claimed he was “against the political class” in general. He later told some reporters he identified as leftist but was disgusted with his political camp's failure to help regular people.

A French court on Thursday sentenced a 28-year-old man to four months in prison for slapping President Emmanuel Macron in the face two days earlier.

On Friday, a National Front candidate in the June 12 local elections, Enzo Alias, and another activist were violently attacked in the southern town of Arles as they pasted up posters. A video posted by Alias shows a man throwing a liquid, apparently oil, at them, then going after them with a stick. The activist suffered a broken leg, Alias said.

Also Friday, a former minister campaigning for regional elections, Francois de Rugy, got doused with flour while sitting at a cafe terrace in Nantes, in western France. Campaigning under the stripes of Macron's centrist party, he denounced on Twitter Saturday's flouring of Melenchon and violent acts against politicians “whoever they are and whatever their targets.”

France's left has lost its political voice amid divisions since Macron won the presidency in 2017 against his far-right opponent Le Pen. Macron replaced Socialist Francois Hollande, who chose not to run.