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Saturday, 27 April, 2002, 20:39 GMT 21:39 UK
Parisiens speak out as protesters march
demo
Many French fear for their children's future
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By Hugh Schofield
in Paris
line

Tens of thousands of slogan-chanting left-wingers were parading with the usual exuberance down the Boulevard du Temple, but from behind the windows of their stores local shop-keepers looked on in glum resignation.

"This is Demonstration Avenue," said Danielle Dailles, 50, who runs a kitchen furniture business by the Place de la Republique.

"Every time they come down here on the way to the Bastille. This is the third one this week. All we can do is shrug our shoulders, but it's terrible for business."

alexander
Hairdresser David Alexander looks on as thousands pass
M. Dailles would not have been among the demonstrators had he been able to take the day off. He was not for Le Pen, he said, but on the other hand he thought he had a point.

"Why did so many people vote for Le Pen? Is it because they are all racists and xenophobes? Of course not.

"It's because they have just had it up to here with the rest of them. Personally I am happy with the results. Everything's been shaken up and that suits me fine. The politicians have got a real jolt," he said.

A short distance away David Alexander was touching up the hair-do of the only client at his coiffure, while assistant Alice Bismuth stared disconsolately at the flags passing by outside.

"You know I am really sad," said Alice. "We have become a country where it is no longer possible for our children to grow up peacefully. I have four children. They can't bloom in this climate. We are all so fed up with the insecurity.

"I am going to spoil my ballot paper next Sunday. There's no one who really wants to help us."

No one in the stores of Demonstration Avenue was particularly surprised by Le Pen's success on 21 April.

The lady having her hair done was Danielle Meimoun. She is Jewish - it turns out to be a Jewish coiffure - and she is not ashamed to admit that she herself was tempted to vote Le Pen.

Out of control

"Of course in the end as a Jew I couldn't. He's too extremist. No one intelligent could vote for him. But let us be honest. He has some ideas which are perfectly defensible. I mean on crime," she said.

"This is what is so dangerous. When even I - who am Jewish - find myself saying I agree with him, what are the good French Catholics going to think?"

"If Mitterrand, Jospin and Chirac had done what they were supposed to do, there wouldn't be this problem," says David. "Everyone knows who's causing all the trouble - it's the North Africans from the banlieus.

"They should have done what they did in New York - no graffiti, nothing, but things have just got out of control," he said.

Smashing and looting

It is the same message from the Renault dealership a bit further on.

"I know many, many people who voted Le Pen. It's crime - it's as simple as that. I have a Canadian friend who said to me, 'You know you have a lovely country, but you can really sense the insecurity," said salesman Emmanuel Desselier.

"What I am really afraid of," says kitchen-man Daniel Dailles, "is that the wreckers will come in from the banlieus at the end of one of these demos and start smashing and looting.

"It happens all the time. But of course that plays straight into the hands of Le Pen."

See also:

27 Apr 02 | Europe
Mass protests against Le Pen
26 Apr 02 | Europe
Le Pen lashes immigrants
24 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Le Pen policies 'repellent' - Blair
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