Far-right conference in Lisbon draws hundreds on to streets in protest

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LISBON (Reuters) - Hundreds of activists marched through some of Lisbon’s main streets on Saturday in protest at a conference of far-right groups organized by Portugal’s Nova Ordem Social which attracted around 65 people from around Europe.

The meeting was held in a conference room at Lisbon’s SANA hotel where most of the seats were empty, signaling the lack of popularity of the far-right in Portugal which is one of only four countries in Europe without a far-right political party in parliament.

As the conference was happening, demonstrators carrying anti-Nazi posters marched in a protest backed by left-wing parties including the Communists and the Left Bloc, which support the ruling Socialists in parliament.

“It shouldn’t be acceptable in our country to authorize events which bring together, from various countries, movements which are xenophobic, racist and openly fascist,” Left Bloc lawmaker Isabel Pires told Reuters.

The government, led by prime minister Antonio Costa, has been heavily criticized by protest organizers for allowing the conference, which brought together members of several European groups, including Germany’s Die Rechte and France’s Parti Nationaliste Francais.

On the sidelines of the conference, Mario Machado, the leader of Nova Ordem Social, told Reuters: “We didn’t want to be out of an international movement taking place in Europe.”

Machado was released from jail in 2017 after spending a decade behind bars for crimes including racial discrimination and possession of illegal weapons.

Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by David Holmes