PARIS — Protesters angry about President Trump’s visit with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron set up a symbolic “No Trump Zone” here Thursday to kick off what activists say will be a series of anti-Trump rallies while he’s in town as an honored guest at the nation’s Bastille Day ceremonies slated for Friday.
It was small and only loosely organized. But about 250 demonstrators gathered Thursday night in the Place de la Republique, a notorious gathering point for leftist demonstrators in the French capital, to establish the ad hoc “zone” with speeches and signs railing against Mr. Trump, his polices and key members of his administration.
While the U.S. president and first lady Melania Trump are not scheduled to go near the Place de la Republique during their visit, an outfit calling itself “Paris Against Trump” has used social media to rally as many protesters as possible “to show our opposition,” according to the group’s Facebook page.
Local news reports say thousands are preparing to take to the streets to express discontent with both Mr. Trump and Mr. Macron as they, along with their wives, visit sites in Paris and participate in Bastille Day — essentially France’s equivalent to the United States’ 4th of July celebrations.
Mr. Trump arrived here Thursday morning and toured the tomb of Napoleon ahead of security talks with the French president. Despite a generally celebratory tone in French media, the U.S. president’s visit is being portrayed by many here as awkward — given that he openly supported far-right leader Marine Le Pen against Mr. Macron during the recent French election.
Protesters voiced anger at Mr. Macron for inviting Mr. Trump. They also slammed Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord that former President Barack Obama reached with world leaders in 2015, as well as the Trump administration’s ban on refugees and travel to the U.S. from several Muslim-majority nations.
“I see what Trump stands for as anti-democratic. He’s either overtly racist and xenophobic or at least opening the doors to xenophobia and racism,” said one man, who held a sign at the “No Trump Zone” rally with the message, “Ban the Islamophobic travel ban and by the way ban Bannon!” — a reference to chief White House strategist Steve K. Bannon.
“I can understand that Macron would want to talk and look eye-to-eye with Trump because he needs to deal with the United States,” said the man, who gave his age as 63, but spoke only on condition of anonymity beyond describing himself as a dual U.S.-French citizen living and working in Paris.
“But making Trump the guest of honor at the most important national holiday in France, where you have the most public expressions of support for the ideals of the Republic, to me that sends a creepy message,” he said.
Bastille Day in France is widely regarded as a celebration of the French Republic’s core motto: Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.
The anti-Trump protests were not expected to turn violent the way leftist and anarchist rallies did at the G-20 gathering of leaders from world’s most powerful nations in Hamburg, Germany, last week. Those demonstrations were not considered anti-Trump, but rather driven by leftist European anger toward the capitalist and globalized establishment of world powers.
But security is tight at the moment in Paris, where machine-gun armed police are a regular site at metro stations and monuments.
One woman at Thursday night’s rally held a sign that read: “Putin’s puppet must go.”
In addition to the Place de la Republique action, the “Paris Against Trump” group said another gathering would occur Thursday night at the Place des Etats-Unis, which was once home to the U.S. Embassy in the French capital. On Friday, protesters are set to hold a rally and march to include “many French social justice and antiracist organizations,” according to the group’s Facebook page.
Several people claiming to be Americans have posted harsh messages on the page in recent days, including one who said: “I hope your numbers are large and your voices loud. Thank you for supporting protesting the end to this Dictator wanna be FAKE President.”
Others claiming to be Americans have posted that they would be in Paris Thursday and Friday and were planning on attending the protests.
• Dave Boyer contributed to this article from Washington, D.C.
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