The French government has outlawed the extreme right-wing and anti-immigrant group Génération Identitaire (Identity Generation) and condemned it as "the armed wing of extremism and xenophobia".
Interior minister Gérald Darmaninannounced after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday that the organisation had been banned by government decree because it promoted “discrimination, hate and violence” and took the form of a private militia.
In October President Emmanuel Macron's government banned three organisations deemed to be radical Islamist following the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty outside his school in a Paris suburb by a Chechen Islamist refugee.
Accused of Islamophobia, officials have sought to show that France is equally firm in suppressing extremists on the far right. "We won't let any group, whatever it is, undermine our laws or our values," government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday.
Génération Identitaire, which claimed to have about 4,000 members, said it campaigned against crime, Islamisation and anti-white racism. But the government said its actions fomented hostility and violence against immigrants in general, for example by calling Mr Paty “a victim of the immigrant invasion”.
Among its financial backers, the French decree said, was Brenton Tarrant, the Australian who killed 51 people in terror attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019 and was later sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Génération Identitaire was considered a fringe organisation, but the move to ban it drew the ire of Marine Le Pen's Rassemblement National (RN), the country's well established far-right political party.
Le Pen’s popularity
The RN last month said freedom of conscience, expression and association had been “dangerously called into question” by the imminent ban, even if the party did not share all of the group’s opinions or approve its actions.
“Should one say that it’s no longer possible to make the connection between massive immigration and crime?” the RN asked in a statement.
Ms Le Pen is among the most popular politicians in France – the RN won more French votes than any other party in last year’s European elections – and she is expected to be the main rival to Mr Macron when he stands for re-election as president next year.
She has sought to “detoxify” the party and rid it of the anti-Semitism fostered by her father Jean-Marie before she took over, but opposition to immigration remains one of its main attractions for French voters.
Speaking after the cabinet meeting, Mr Attal justified the banning of Génération Identitaire by accusing it of demonising Muslims in France, and said it maintained links with other extremist groups and had mounted military-style “security” operations on French soil.
“By this decision, we put to an end the sometimes violent actions of a group that has long since broken with the French republic,” he said. “Génération Identitaire no longer championed ideas, it was the armed wing of extremism and xenophobia.” – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021