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Why has Lyon become a stronghold of the ultra-right in France?


Numerous violent actions have been claimed by the Lyon ultra-right in recent years. The latest is the attack on a conference on Palestine, claimed by the “Guignol Squad”, an informal group accustomed to violent actions.

Lyon, a city with many nicknames. It is called the city of Gones, the Capital of Gaul, but also sometimes the French city of the ultra-right. A reputation which tends to stick to his skin, particularly following numerous acts claimed by the ultra-right from Lyon in recent years.

The latest: the attack on a conference on Palestine by around fifty activists, claimed by the “Guignol Squad”, an informal group accustomed to violent actions.

“All these negationists were born in Lyon 2”

This ultra-right has been anchored in the Rhône city since the end of the 1970s, recounts Romain Meltz, political scientist at Lyon 2 University, on BFM Lyon. “There are roots to that, notably this whole movement, all these negationists, it was born at the University of Lyon 2. With Robert Faurisson who was a lecturer in 1978.”

This Holocaust denial activist became known in 1978. “He gave several interviews and said ‘the gas chambers never existed'”, says Romain Meltz. “And it starts an incredible movement. All of a sudden people are saying ‘this question arises’.”

“This incredible shock in the 1970s of a France which discovered that we could deny the gas chambers, it very clearly identified Lyon as being the producer of this idea.”

In Lyon, the ultra-right continued to evolve, and the current forms of these currents of thought have mutated. They are not only visible in Lyon, but in other cities in France.

The 5th arrondissement, stronghold of the ultra-right?

In the Rhône prefecture, it is indeed the 5th arrondissement which serves as the stronghold of the ultra-right, confirms Romain Meltz. “There is something that resonates with them. The fact that it is a classified site refers to this idea of ​​a kind of eternal pre-migration Europe of the 15th century…”

The presence of the Presqu’île also refers to the idea of ​​defending a territory, notes the political scientist. It is also in this district that the associative bar “La Traboule” is located, former premises of the small group Génération identitaire now associated with the ultra-right collective group Les Remparts.

According to Romain Meltz, these activists are generally between 20 and 30 years old, they often come from families who were already in the ultra-right, from far-right Catholicism. “You don’t become ultra-right activists coming from a left-wing or non-politicized family,” says the political scientist.

The sensitivity of these activists then developed “around events which punctuated youth”, specifies the political scientist. He cites in particular the murder of Lola or the Clément Méric affair.

“The Presqu’île is the place of the ultra-right”

It is also a national context which liberated some of these young people. The demonization of the National Front, then the National Rally, is one of the causes, underlines Romain Meltz.

However, the ultra-right rejects the institutions of the 5th Republic and focuses on actions “on the ground”, in “punching and violent demonstrations”. A position which tends, in Lyon, to directly bring the ultra-right and anti-fascist groups face to face.

“We can clearly see the idea of ​​the prefecture which says to the far-left movements ‘you must not go to the Presqu’île so as not to have clashes’. This reinforces the idea that the Presqu’île is the place of the ultra-right.”

However, in Lyon as elsewhere, these are only “very small groups, which sometimes number around ten people, either ultra-right nationalists or far-right Catholics, or neo-Nazis”. They are gaining momentum as the news progresses.

“All of a sudden, for external reasons, they are showered with people who are not really politicized, who are not in groups, but who have a sensitivity that makes them react to current events.”

A phenomenon difficult to stem

However, it is complicated today for the government to overcome ultra-right movements. Even if “the Republic is watching”, with the dissolution of Bastion Social or Génération Identitaire for example, the ultra-right is today “ready for anything”, recalls Romain Meltz.

“This idea of ​​saying we are the ultra-right, we are going to attack a conference on Palestine, and we are on the side of the fight against anti-Semitism, it’s a bit crazy because that was anti-Semitism for years .”

Several local political figures recently called for the dissolution of the Remparts, a showcase for the Lyon ultra-right following the coup by ultra-right activists against a premises hosting a conference on Palestine.

Questioned this Tuesday, November 14 by BFM Lyon, a spokesperson for the Remparts ensures that these elected officials are trying to “silence” them. The link is made much too quickly between the Remparts, the premises that we use, to the extent that we have nothing to do with it… They are trying to silence us as we are the only public group to show up and have a political influence locally,” he judges.

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