Eric Zemmour, French Pundit Compared to Trump, Investigated After Campaign Rally Violence

Eric Zemmour, a French pundit compared to Trump, is having his campaign rally for his presidential bid investigated after violence erupted, according to the Associated Press.

On Monday, French prosecutors opened an investigation into the violence that occurred at the rally Sunday. Anti-racism activists from the campaign group SOS Racisme were beaten, resulting in police detaining about 60 people, the prosecutors' office said.

The group condemned the beatings with the group's president, Dominique Sopo, saying the violence at the rally was akin to violence towards civil rights activists from white supremacists in the U.S., the AP reported.

At the rally, people "were so drunk with hate, so open with their hatred and their violence, that they're not bothered about beating people and women bloody with cameras present," Sopo said. "This candidate unleashes hatred in his wake."

Five of SOS Racisme's members were injured after being punched, thrown to the ground, and had chairs thrown at them. One activist had blood running down her face from a cut on her head.

Zemmour's campaign said his opponents were to blame for the violence. Antoine Diers, a spokesman for Zemmour's party, said campaigners wore shirts that spelled out "No to racism," provoking supporters of the candidate.

"We are committed democrats," Diers said. "They are allowed to demonstrate against us—outside."

The prosecutor's office is also investigating an incident involving Zemmour and another man during the campaign rally.

Images captured on video show a man walking out of the crowds with his arms outstretched as Zemmour walked through people during the rally. The man seems to lock his arms around Zemmour's neck before being pulled off, resulting in Zemmour injuring his wrist, his campaign said.

The prosecutor's office said the man was still in custody as of Monday. A police complaint against the alleged attacker was filed on behalf of Zemmour by his campaign's security manager.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Eric Zemmour, SOS Racisme, Campaign Rally Violence
Supporters of French far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour wave posters and French flags during the candidate's first rally on December 5, 2021, in Villepinte, north of Paris. Anti-racism activists were beaten up Sunday as far-right former French TV pundit Eric Zemmour held his first presidential campaign rally near Paris, a few days after he formally declared his candidacy in a video that highlighted his anti-migrant and anti-Islam views. Rafael Yaghobzadeh/AP Photo

The rally was Zemmour's first since the 63-year-old far-right author and former TV commentator with repeated convictions for hate speech officially launched his run for the French presidency last week.

France is holding a presidential election on April 10, with a runoff, if needed, on April 24. President Emmanuel Macron is expected to seek a second term but he has yet to declare his candidacy. The far-right leader who Macron defeated in 2017, Marine Le Pen, is also running again.

Other French presidential candidates include Valérie Pécresse of France's main conservative Republicans party; Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo for the Socialist party; Yannick Jadot for the Greens; and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the far-left leader of the Rebel France party.

Campaign Rally Violence, Investigation, Eric Zemmour
SOS Racisme's president, Dominique Soho, said the attack on the group's members is akin to civil rights activists being attacked by white supremacists in the U.S. In this photo, French far-right polemicist and 2022 French presidential candidate Eric Zemmour waves to public as he arrives for his first campaign meeting on December 05, 2021, in Villepinte, France. Chesnot/Getty Images