French riot police clashed with youths in central Paris yesterday when a demonstration against far right leader presidential candidate Marine Le Pen and her centrist rival Emmanuel Macron turned violent.
Police replied with teargas as hooded youths threw bottles on the sidelines of a march by about 500 hundred high school students.
Students blocked entrances to some high schools Thursday and marched through eastern Paris toward the neighborhood of the Bastille. Some held banners reading "No Fatherland, No Boss, No Le Pen, No Macron," referring to Le Pen's nationalist campaign and Macron's pro-business campaign.
Police also used teargas against protesters in the western city of Rennes where nearly 2,000 high school and university students, and far-left activists, held a demonstration, a Reuters correspondent there reported. The "anti-fascist, anti-capitalist" demonstrations have been held in several French cities including central Lyon, southwestern Bordeaux and the western city of Nantes since Sunday election.
In Paris, protesting students blocked the entrances, or staged election-related demonstrations, at about 20 high schools earlier on Thursday after student unions urged them to turn out.
Students have been holding "neither Le Pen, neither Macron" protests at high schools since the two qualified on Sunday for a May 7 runoff vote in France's two-stage presidential election.
"We are calling for action against far right candidate Marine Le Pen and the candidate of high finance, Emmanuel Macron," said UNL-SD student union leader Giuseppe Aviges, alluding to Macron's past as an investment banker.
An election-night protest in the same area Sunday degenerated into clashes between projectile-throwing demonstrators and police firing tear gas. Police said they arrested more than 100 people after election night unrest in Paris, with protesters hurling bottles at security forces, torching cars and smashing shop windows. Six police officers and three protesters were slightly injured in the violence in central Paris, police said, adding that 143 people were arrested, with 29 held overnight.
Since last Sunday's opening ballot sent them into a two-way runoff on May 7, the battle has intensified, notably on the public relations front, between two candidates who both say their adversary will ruin the country.
A daily Opinionway poll showed Macron still clear favorite, but his predicted score, which has almost always been 60 percent or higher over the past few months, dipped to 59 percent for the first time since mid-March.
A separate Elabe poll also signaled a potential danger for the favorite: it said one out of two people surveyed considered Le Pen's last-leg campaign had begun well, while for Macron that positive view of latest developments was a slimmer 43 percent.
The skirmishing has intensified with the countdown to May 7.
It took a spectacular turn in front of TV cameras on Wednesday when Le Pen paid a surprise visit to a doomed tumble-drier plant in her opponent's home town and promised to save it just as Macron was in a meeting with labor representatives behind closed-doors nearby.
She took selfies with people at the Whirlpool site as he was trying to explain to worker representatives that the company's decision to relocate production in Poland was not something the French state could block.
Macron later went to the site himself, and although Macron held his ground and the tension eventually eased, television channels repeatedly broadcast footage of the candidate being heckled, marking a stark contrast with coverage of Le Pen posing for photographs with workers.