The far-right French presidential candidate Éric Zemmour appeared to be put in a headlock by a protester at his first campaign, a few days after he formally declared his candidacy in a video highlighting his anti-migrant and anti-Islam views.
Videos online appeared to show Zemmour being grabbed by a man at the heated rally near Paris on Sunday, during which anti-racism activists were also reportedly attacked. He was later reported to have suffered light injuries.
— Benj 🌒 (@benjdpl) December 5, 2021
The former TV pundit announced on Tuesday that he would run in next April’s election, joining the field of challengers seeking to unseat centrist President Emmanuel Macron.
He held his first event at an exhibition centre in a suburb of Paris where thousands cheered every mention of reducing immigration and booed every reference to Macron loudly.
“The stakes are huge: if I win it will be the start of winning back the most beautiful country in the world,” Zemmour told the crowd.
Fighting broke out and chairs were thrown at activists when they stood up with “No to Racism” written on their T-shirts, with at least two of them seen bleeding as they were ejected from the auditorium.
A crew from the popular but critical Quotidien nightly TV news show were also booed and removed by security, with hostility to the media a feature of the speeches at the event.
The rally was seen as a chance for Zemmour to regain momentum after opinion polls showed support for him falling over the last month as he attempted to maintain suspense about his intentions.
Polls show that voters currently believe Marine Le Pen, the veteran leader of the far-right National Rally party, would make a more competent president than Zemmour.
The latest surveys suggest he would be eliminated in the first round if the election were held now, with Macron tipped to win ahead of Le Pen, but analysts warn that the outcome remains highly uncertain.
Zemmour vowed to reduce immigration to almost zero if he were elected, dramatically toughen up the naturalisation process, and expel failed asylum-seekers and illegal immigrants.
France’s right-wing Republicans party picked the boss of the Paris region Valerie Pecresse as its nominee on Saturday after a primary dominated by talk of immigration and crime.
Police were on alert for far-left activists and anarchists who disrupted Zemmour’s trip last weekend to the southern of port city of Marseille, which ended with the candidate showing the middle finger to a woman who was protesting.
As well as a series of recent missteps, Zemmour has seen several influential figures on the far-right distance themselves from him, including his main financial backer.