There were demonstrations across France yesterday, Thursday, in memory of young anti-fascist Clément Méric. Clément died in hospital earlier that day following a violent attack on Wednesday night that left him braindead.
The tragedy shocked activists.
Goulven, an activist from the New Anticapitalist Party in St Denis near Paris told Socialist Worker, “We got a text on Wednesday night calling for people to go to the hospital where a comrade was injured.
“More than 200 people turned up, people who'd been close to Clément as well as many activists.
“I didn't know Clément, but we'd been on a demonstration together a month ago in front of his university, the Sciences Po, where homophobic groups had threatened to carry out an action. We unfurled a banner saying 'homophobia kills', in response to the violent homophobic attacks of recent months.”
Police have made several arrests, including a man they believe delivered the killer blow. And anti-fascists are in no doubt as to who is responsible.
“Clément's friends were anti-fascists too, and they talked about what happened,” said Goulven. “They knew who their attackers were.”
Small fascist groups such as the Nationalist Revolutionary Youth (JNR) in Paris and the Bloc Identitaire in Lyon have taken to the streets more brazenly since recent mass demonstrations against gay marriage.
“There's also a new law on its way which will ban women who wear hijabs from working in creches. And the government is continuing the right's policy of systematically deporting Roma people,” said Goulven. “All this created a climate that has given the extreme right confidence. And now here we are with the death of an anti-fascist.”
Clément's death saw a number of demonstrations on Thursday and a march planned for Saturday.
“Sciences Po students assembled at lunch time at the school, and others including local left wing politicians came to show support,” said Goulven. “There were two demonstrations in Paris in the evening, as well as in other towns across France.
“One of the biggest was in Lyon, where there have also been a number of attacks. At least two kebab shops run by Arab immigrants there have closed as a result of the aggression.”
It has also re-opened a debate on how to deal with the fascists. Both the Left Party of Jean-Luc Mélenchon and ministers in the Socialist Party government have called for far right groupuscules to be banned. Jean François Copé, leader of the right wing opposition, has gone one further, calling for the “extremists” of the left to be banned too.
“The problem is that the forces that should be forming a front against fascism are confused about what they are fighting,” said Goulven. “There's an understanding that these small groups are fascist and they shouldn't be given the chance to speak. But the much larger Front National (FN) has been able to make itself appear legitimate.
“This is dangerous. Underneath the mask of legitimacy the FN has the same fascist core as these small groups and it maintains links with them. It wants to draw people in and radicalise them for attacks on our social and democratic rights.
“We need to build a movement that is broad and united, but firm on its political content. We can't ignore the Islamophobia and homophobia which have allowed the far right to gain ground.”