Djillali Boumezioud says he hadn't planned to spend last Friday night in a crowd flinging rocks at Bruno Mgret, the leading candidate for France's most controversial party.
"I just wanted to hear what he had to say, but they wouldn't let me into the meeting. I'm against the National Front because they're against us. If they get into power, we could be separated from our families like the Jews were in World War II," he explains.
Mr. Boumezioud was born in France and is a French citizen, but his parents entered France illegally from Algeria. The National Front calls for expelling immigrants to free up jobs for unemployed French workers.
"You have seen hate tonight, but it's not from the National Front," Mr. Mgret told some 120 anxious supporters, who listened to his stump speech through the sounds of rocks deflecting off the back door of the hall.
The National Front's security has been the most intimidating in French politics, but there were no shaved heads in the low-key security detail that used portable phones to call in police help and that urged National Front supporters to just "get back quickly" to their cars after the meeting, despite the continuing hail of stones and bottles. "We are determined not to yield to any provocation. We prefer to force the police to provide security," says Mgret.
In an interview after the protest, Boumezioud was asked what he would have told Mgret if he had met him in person: "I would tell him that it is an honor to talk to him, because he is a famous man. I'd speak the best I could, and I'd ask him what he really thinks, not as the leader of a political party but as a man."
Mgret, also interviewed after the event, responded indirectly to these comments: "I understand what he is saying, but my first loyalty must be to the French. He is not really French, because his parents came here illegally. We can't afford to be populated by another civilization."