Blame from Left, Denials from Right in Wake of Meric Murder

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, above, has accused Marine Le Pen’s Front national of maintaining links to right -wing extremist groups like the one blamed for Clement Meric’s death. Photo: Pierre-Selim.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, above, has accused Marine Le Pen’s Front national of maintaining links to right wing extremist groups like the one blamed for Clement Meric’s death. Photo: Pierre-Selim for flickr.

In the wake of the killing of left wing activist Clement Meric in a brawl with skinheads, France has vigorously debated how closely—if at all—the crime may be linked to the political far right.

In the days following the murder, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has asked the Ministry of the Interior to act “immediately” to dissolve the right wing group involved in the slaying, the Revolutionary Nationalist Youth (JNR).

The JNR denied any involvement in the slaying. Its leader Serge Ayoube was questioned by police, but is not considered a suspect.

Marine Le Pen, president of the Front national (FN) and undoubtedly the most prominent figure on the French far right, has publicly distanced herself from the incident. In an official statement, the FN condemned the killing as “appalling.”

Speaking to RTL, Le Pen called Meric’s murder “absolutely terrible,” and said that such violence would have “grave consequences.”

She categorically denied that there was any link between the FN and the JNR, and said that the police investigation into the crime should be allowed to proceed without political interference.

But the French left has not accepted the FN’s denial of responsibility.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Parti de Gauche (PG) co-president and MEP Jean-Luc Mélenchon said that the FN was responsible for the activities of violent, right wing extremists.

“I am certain that there is a link between these groups and the extreme right. Madame Le Pen is lying,” he told reporters from AFP and Le Monde.

“Mr. Ayoube, the leader of this band of little Nazis … [supported] Le Pen’s ascension to the leadership of the Front national. She met him. They had dinner together,” Mélenchon said.

Mélenchon added that he had personally seen Ayoube campaigning for Le Pen, and shaking her hand.

Le Pen has admitted to having met Ayoube once, but denied that they were closely associated. “I concluded that we had nothing to talk about and nothing in common,” she said on BFM TV.

She has not, however, denied reports that she dined with Ayoube in 2010.

Le Pen said that in her years of leadership, the FN has dissociated itself from the extremist groups and far-right skinheads that had once been a major source of its support. For example, she pointed out that the party had expelled Nationalist Youth leader Alexandre Gabriac, “when he was shown for what he was.”

Gabriac was ejected from the FN when he was photographed giving a straight-armed salute. His organization has no affiliation with Ayoube’s JNR.

“We have very clearly told [these groups]: We want nothing to do with you, we don’t have the same ideas, don’t bother coming to the Front national, we have absolute differences with you,” Le Pen said.

“All groups that use violence to advance their political ends must be dissolved by the law,” she said, adding that Mélenchon should condemn violent leftist groups with equal force.

Gabriac, for his part, called Meric’s death “a tragic incident” that he “deplores,” but he has refused to condemn it.

“Throwing beer cans at the powers that be will not change anything,” he said. “Rather than such childishness, I call for political action.”

To an American audience, the scene unfolding in France now is strikingly reminiscent of the 2011 Tuscon shooting, in which a gunman seriously wounded Representative Gabrielle Giffords and killed six bystanders.

Many on the US left blamed the assassination attempt on the often frenzied, violent rhetoric used by the right wing Tea Party movement. Sarah Palin, then still a superstar on the American right, had previously published a map of the US with a gun sight over Giffords’ district.

Palin was swift to dismiss all suggestions of Tea Party responsibility, memorably accusing her critics of “blood libel.”

Trackbacks

  1. […] In the days following the murder, Prime Minister Ayrault has asked the Ministry of the Interior to act “immediately” to dissolve the right wing group involved in the slaying, the Revolutionary Nationalist Youth (JNR). Marine Le Pen, president of the Front national (FN) and undoubtedly the most prominent figure on the French far-right, has publicly distanced herself from the incident. In an official statement, the FN condemned the killing as “appalling.” […]

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