Thousands march in rival rallies days before France presidential election

Thousands of people have marched in Paris in rival political rallies six days before the second round of the French presidential vote.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron held overlapping rallies in the French capital at the same time as nationwide May Day union marches.

As many as 9,000 police officers were expected to be on the streets in Paris to cope with other rallies by anti-fascist groups, those who reject both candidates and Front National founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, who was expelled from the party by his own daughter, staging his own march.

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Mr Macron paid tribute to Moroccan man Brahim Bourram, 29, who was thrown to his death in the Seine River on the sidelines of a National Front march held on 1 May 1995 to honour Joan of Arc.

Mr Bourram was pushed off a bridge by a group of skinheads who broke away from the march.

Mr Macron hugged Mr Bourram's son Said on the bridge ahead of the rally and insisted Ms Le Pen has failed in her efforts to distance herself from the legacy her father gave the party.

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He said: "I will not forget anything and I will fight to the last second, not only against her project, but against the idea she has of democracy and the nation".

Ms Le Pen was set to stage her rally in Villepinte, after accusing her rival of being the "candidate of morbid continuity" and being a clone of unpopular outgoing socialist President Francois Hollande as she looks to close a 22-point gap in the polls.

She told the rally: "Do not give a voice to Mr Macron, do not prolong this unworthy five-year term, do not prolong the sufferings of a people that cannot longer cope.

"Emmanuel Macron is just Francois Hollande who wants to stay and who is hanging on to power like a barnacle."

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Latest poll figures predict Mr Macron will win the second round of voting with around 61% compared with Ms Le Pen's 39%, but the Front National leader has closed that gap.

The rallies took place at the same time as 1 May union marches across France, with some groups calling for a united front to keep Ms Le Pen out of the Palace of Versailles.

Violence broke out at a May Day march as police used tear gas and truncheons after several hundred protesters threw petrol bombs and other objects at officers.

The election is the first for a president who will not be from the main Socialists and Les Republicains parties.

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