Major anti-NATO rally hits Paris streets
Crowds of protesters took to the streets of the French capital on Saturday to protest France’s policies towards Russia and the nation’s NATO membership. The large-scale rally was organized by the right-wing Les Patriotes (The Patriots) party, led by Florian Philippot, the former deputy head of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally.
Philippot has been organizing protests dubbed "the resistance" since autumn, demanding that France leave NATO and the EU, as well as criticizing President Emmanuel Macron’s economic and foreign policies. On Saturday, demonstrators were seen carrying banners and placards that read: "France must leave NATO," "Macron’s impeachment," and "Resistance!" They were also seen waving France’s national flag and chanting "Ursula, shut up!" – a reference to the EU Commission head Ursula von der Leyen.
En direct à Paris une foule immense crie « Sortons vite de l’OTAN » ! Énorme ! Vive la liberté vive la Paix ! Vive la France libre ! 🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷 pic.twitter.com/Rwzn2PdZ0A— Florian Philippot (@f_philippot) December 17, 2022
The protests, in which Philippot himself took part, were triggered in particular by the high energy prices that have forced small businesses across France into closure, he explained to Ruptly video news agency. "We must stop the anti-Russia sanctions, because that does not serve peace there but brings misery here," he said.
Photos and videos published by the politician on social media showed a large crowd marching through the streets of central Paris. French officials have not commented on the rally and provided no official figures as to the number of demonstrators. The French media mostly ignored the event as well. According to the website of Les Patriotes, similar rallies were held in September and October.
« Corrompus en prison ! » hurle la foule ! Petite dédicace à Ursula et ses SMS ! 😉⤵️ pic.twitter.com/klqzHyuown— Florian Philippot (@f_philippot) December 17, 2022
The protest also occurs as neighboring Belgium saw a massive demonstration joined by over 16,000 people in Brussels earlier this week. Thousands took to the streets in the Belgian capital on Friday to demand a freeze on spiking energy prices, and better pay, amid high inflation in Belgium and the EU.
Gas and electricity prices have skyrocketed in Europe as the economic strain caused by Covid-19 was further aggravated by the fallout of EU sanctions on Moscow over the conflict in Ukraine. Russian energy supplies to the bloc were then further reduced amid the EU’s attempts to rid itself of Moscow’s energy imports altogether.