French police have used tear gas to disperse angry demonstrators protesting against far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen in the southern city of Marseilles.
Some 500 protesters, shouting anti-Le Pen slogans, attempted to counter a rally by nearly 5,000 Le Pen supporters in Marseilles on Wednesday afternoon under tight security when they faced police resistance. Le Pen was present at the rally by her supporters for a speech.
The protesters also carried banners and placards that read “Marseille against the National Front” — Le Pen’s eurosceptic party — “Migrants Welcome, Fascists get out!,” and “The Extreme Right, you can’t fight at the ballot box.”
Some ultra-left demonstrators hurled projectiles and firecrackers at police, prompting them to respond by firing tear gas canisters and to arrest at least four protesters. There was no immediate report of possible casualties during Wednesday’s clashes, which continued as darkness fell.
The race for the presidency features Francois Fillon, Emmanuel Macron, Benoit Hamon, Jean-Luc Melenchon, and Marine Le Pen. Incumbent Francois Hollande is not re-running for office.
Le Pen, 48, has caused the most controversy with her extremist, far-right policies. She proposes France’s exit from the European Union and voices concerns about security and immigration. She has vowed to place an immediate moratorium on all kinds of immigration as soon as she takes office as president, if she does.
The French presidential election has been scheduled for April 23. A runoff is scheduled for May 7 in anticipation of an inconclusive first round.
The two candidates with the most votes in the first round of the election will compete in the runoff. A survey published Wednesday showed that Macron was leading on 23 percent to Le Pen’s 22.5 percent.
The upcoming election is considered by some analysts as one of the most unpredictable ones in decades.