Speaking on Wednesday Le Pen blamed Monday night’s looting and rampage in central Paris by a minority of so-called fans of the football club PSG on “a failure of immigration policy."
“The rioters were obviously criminals of immigrant origins, who had come down from the estates to go on a raid,” she told Le Chaine Parliamentaire, the TV channel of France’s houses of parliament.
In the immediate aftermath of the riots, which cut short a celebration of Paris Saint-Germain’s first French football championship in 19 years, Le Pen released a statement calling participants “a flood of scumbags” and “barbarians.”
Le Pen is far from the only voice on France’s far right, however, to make a connection between ethnicity and the riots.
Her party’s vice-president, Bruno Gollnisch, on Tuesday caused controversy by deflecting blame from “ultras” – hardcore PSG supporters – and on to “ethnic gangs.
“The truth about the chaos at Trocadero: It wasn’t ‘ultras’, as some in the media are saying, but ethnic gangs…”
La vérité sur le saccage des brasseries du Trocadéro : ce ne sont pas des "Ultras" comme disent certains media, mais des bandes ethniques…
— Bruno Gollnisch (@brunogollnisch) May 14, 2013
Jean-Sebastien Vialatte, a deputy from the main centre-right opposition UMP caused outrage on Monday, after labelling rioters “the descendants of slaves”.
“Surely the rioters were the descendants of slaves. They have an excuse. Taubira will give them compensation!”, he tweeted, in reference to a recent call by Justice Minister Christiane Taubira that lands be given to the French descendants of the victims of the slave trade.
Vialatte’s tweet, which has since been deleted, was condemned by the governing Socialist party as “nauseating and racist.”
Much of the debate centred around race and ethnicity has seized on images of at least one rioter waving and wearing an Algerian flag.
Fabrice Robert, leader of the far-right splinter group, the Bloc Identitaire on Tuesday tweeted one of the images on Tuesday, asking: “What is this PSG ‘hooligan’ doing with an Algerian flag? Have we been lied to?”
— Fabrice Robert (@_fabricerobert) May 14, 2013