French rally against far-right ends in clashes ahead of national elections

Riot police clashed with demonstrators in the French city of Rennes on Thursday in the latest rally against the rise of the far-right ahead of a national election this month.

The rally was ended after dozens of young demonstrators threw bottles and other projectiles at police, who responded with tear gas.

The regional prefecture said seven arrests were made among about 80 people who took positions in front of the march through the city centre.

The rally was called by unions opposed to the far-right National Rally party, which is tipped to make major gains in the legislative election. The first round of voting is on June 30.

"We express our absolute opposition to reactionary, racist and anti-Semitic ideas and to those who carry them. There is historically a blood division between them and us," Fabrice Le Restif, regional head of the FO union, one of the organisers of the rally, told AFP.

Political tensions have been heightened by the gang rape of a 12-year-old Jewish girl in a Paris suburb, for which two 13-year-old boys have been charged. The National Rally has been among political parties to condemn the assault.

Several hundred people protested against anti-Semitism and "rape culture" in Paris in the latest reaction.

Dominique Sopo, president of anti-racist group SOS Racisme, said it was "an anti-Semitic crime that chills our blood".

Hundreds had already protested on Wednesday in Paris and Lyon amid widespread outrage over the assault.

France has the largest Jewish community of any country outside Israel and the United States.

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