French President Emmanuel Macron Publicly Disavows Racism but Says Colonial-Era Statues Will Stay

This file photo shows French President Emmanuel Macron during the press conference for the Italian-French summit in Naples on Feb. 27, 2020.
(PARIS) — French President Emmanuel Macron vowed Sunday to stand firm against racism but also praised police and insisted that France wouldn’t take down statues of controversial, colonial-era figures.
It was the first time Macron has spoken on the issues since George Floyd’s death in the U.S. unleashed protests around the world, including several in France, where demonstrators have expressed anger at racial injustice and police brutality, particularly toward minorities from France’s former colonies in Africa.
Unusually for a French leader, Macron acknowledged that someone’s “address, name, color of skin” can reduce their chances at succeeding in French society, and called for a fight to ensure that everyone can “find their place” regardless of ethnic origin or religion. He promised to be “uncompromising in the face of racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination.”
However, he insisted that France will not take down statues of controversial, colonial-era figures as has happened in some other countries in recent weeks.
Amid calls for taking down statues tied to France’s slave trade or colonial wrongs, Macron said “the republic will not erase any trace, or any name, from its history … it will not take down any statue.”
“We should look at all of our history together” including relations with Africa, with a goal of “truth” instead of “denying who we are,” Macron said.
He didn’t address accusations of police violence but said forces of order deserve “the nation’s recognition.”
Macron also announced that France will reopen nearly everything starting Monday after three months of virus confinement measures.
The president promised an internal audit into how his administration handled the virus — notably compared to other countries like Germany. That’s in addition to a parliamentary inquiry already underway.
Despite having one of the world’s best health care systems, France was dangerously short of all kinds of masks and testing capacity as coronavirus patients overwhelmed intensive care wards in March. More than 80 lawsuits have been filed accusing his government of manslaughter, neglect or otherwise mishandling the virus crisis.
Macron sent in the army to help and ordered strict lockdown measures that slowed the spread. But nearly 30,000 people have died, about half of them in nursing homes, and more than 150,000 have been infected. More than 200 new virus clusters have emerged since France started reopening May 11, according to the national health agency.
Meanwhile, his government is facing growing pressure to confront racism and police violence.
At least 15,000 people demonstrated in Paris on Saturday, the latest in a string of French protests galvanized by George Floyd’s death in the U.S. and the Black Lives Matter movement, but increasingly focused on France’s own tensions between police and minorities.
In response, the government banned police chokeholds and vowed to stamp out racism among police — but that has now angered police unions, who say they’re being unfairly painted as white supremacists and staged protests of their own.


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