Tear gas used to drive back separatists who vow to bar Front National from their island
Violent clashes between Corsican nationalists and Marine Le Pen supporters broke out Saturday at a Le Pen rally in the Corsican capital of Ajaccio.
Le Pen’s Front National security staff set off tear gas to ward off the protestors, who had charged the rally demanding independence for their tiny Mediterranean island.
Shouting “a Francia fora” — Corsican for ”France get out” — the nationalists fear Le Pen, if elected, would undermine the unique status and culture of the island which has its own language and has been compared to Italian islands such as Sicily.
The separatist group Ghjuventu Indipendentista claimed responsibility for the disruption, declaring it would never let the Front National “come safely to our country.”
Le Pen blamed local prefect Bernard Schmeltz for bringing the “violent activists right up to the door of my meeting.”
Outside the building, police in riot gear forced back the demonstrators, as activists threw objects at officers. One Front National supporter was seriously injured.
The room where Le Pen was about to speak was evacuated and the rally moved an hour later to a different location in Ajaccio.
Right-wing Le Pen and liberal Emmanuel Macron lead the polls in France’s two-round presidential vote. Le Pen’s tough stance on immigration, Muslims and the European Union have resonated with many citizens in terror-plagued France. The candidate François Fillon continues to be hampered by an ongoing corruption scandal and trails Le Pen and Macron by four points.
The two candidates who get the most votes in the first round on April 23 will then compete in a presidential runoff on May 7.