French commentator Éric Zemmour’s presidential campaign has been anything but quiet.
The controversial figure was assaulted by a protestor at his first campaign event on Dec. 5 in Villepinte, a suburb of Paris. The man grabbed him by the neck before security forces intervened. Zemmour injured his wrist and was ordered by his doctor to rest for nine days.
At the same event, a fight broke out between his supporters and protestors.
“SOS Racisme, an activist group, said five of its members attending the rally were injured. Police detained approximately 60 people in connection to the fight,” per The Washington Examiner.
French far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour launched his bid Sunday amid chaotic scenes that saw him being put into a brief headlock and anti-racism campaigners physically attacked. pic.twitter.com/SG1g5dn0se
— DW News (@dwnews) December 7, 2021
Approximately 13,000 people attended the rally, where Zemmour announced the formation of a new political party — Reconquête.
Zemmour is “the country’s first major Jewish presidential candidate in the post-war Fifth Republic era,” per the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
An outspoken critic of immigration and Islam, Zemmour was convicted of “inciting hatred” and draws support from National Party leader Marine Le Pen’s base as well as the country’s mainstream conservative right.
The former journalist and television commentator announced he intends to seek the presidency in a 10-minute YouTube video posted on Nov. 30.
The 63-year-old said he became disillusioned with the government which he told his “countrymen” he believes will neither fight for the French nation nor “preserve our architectural, cultural, and natural heritage.”
He said that many French people share “a strange and penetrating feeling of dispossession.”
“Like you, I have decided to take our destiny in hand,” he said in the video. “I saw that no politician had the courage to save our country from the tragic fate that awaits it. For a long time I was happy with the role of journalist … but I no longer trust that a politician will have the courage to save the country from the tragic fate that awaits it.
“We, the French, are a great nation. A great people. Our glorious past pleads for our future. Our soldiers have conquered Europe and the world. Our writers and artists have aroused universal admiration. Our scientific discoveries and industrial production have stamped their epochs. We have known great victories, and we have overcome cruel defeats.”
Zemmour encouraged his supporters to stay the course, despite whatever criticism they may receive.
“They will say that you are racist. They will say that you are motivated by contemptible passions, when in fact it is the most lovely passion that animates you – passion for France,” he said. “They will say the worst about me. But I will keep going amidst the jeers, and I don’t care if they spit on me. I will never bend the head. For we have a mission to accomplish.”
According to Reuters, “Opinion polls also show he has shocked some voters with provocative comments — from saying children shouldn’t be given foreign-sounding names to claiming that the French government which collaborated with the Nazis during World War II had protected Jews.”
Immigration is a central part of Zemmour’s platform. He has promised to expel any unsuccessful asylum-seekers and illegal immigrants if he is elected.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story included descriptions that characterized Zemmour as “far-right.” Upon further review, these descriptors can be reasonably considered editorial and not necessarily fact-based. Therefore, they have been removed. In addition, the title has been revised in order to present a more accurate description of certain reactions to Zemmour’s bid for the presidency.