Thousands march in Paris Pride ahead of elections

By Juliette Jabkhiro, Yiming Woo and Imad Creidi

PARIS (Reuters) -Tens of thousands of people took part in the big annual pride march in Paris on Saturday, with LGBT rights groups saying they fear discrimination if a far-right government takes power following the country's election.

France heads to the polls on Sunday for the first round of a parliamentary election that opinion polls show could bring the far-right National Rally (RN) to power. The second round takes place on July 7.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin sent police and local authorities a letter on Friday calling for security reinforcements around LGBT events including Paris Pride, saying there has been an increase in discriminatory acts and "political and community antagonism" that could target such events.

Rights group Inter-LGBT and other rights groups called on people to march in numbers on Saturday to oppose far-right ideas and protect LGBTQIA+ rights.

The RN did not immediately reply to Reuters request for comment.

The party, which is socially conservative and anti-immigrant, has previously said that it has no links to violent far-right groups. It has voted against legislation that gives more rights to LGBTQIA+ groups, including in the European Parliament.

"Hate is on the rise. There are messages on social media calling on people to interfere with the march," Inter-LGBT President James Leperlier told Reuters earlier this week.

Leperlier said that since the RN scored big wins in the June 9 European elections, there has been a rise in hate speech and violent acts. The Paris march organisers have doubled the number of volunteers handling security according to Leperlier.

Drag queen Simone de Boulevard told Reuters at the Paris event that "We are afraid, afraid for our access to healthcare, for our everyday safety".

"Homophobic, transphobic violence is intolerable," de Boulevard added.

LGBTQIA+ refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual, and the + symbol describes other parts of diverse sexual and gender identities.

(Reporting by Juliette Jabkhiro, Yiming Woo and Imad CreidiEditing by Clelia Oziel and Frances Kerry)