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French President denounced racism but said country won't remove colonial-era statues

Ellen Cranley , Business Insider US
 Jun 15, 2020, 10:02 AM
French President Emmanuel Macron is seen on a television screen in Paris on June 14, 2020 as he addresses the nation from the Elysee Palace during a televised speech, broadcast by French tv channel TF1.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron delivered a televised address aired Sunday evening to update the country on its place in the novel coronavirus pandemic and ongoing protests over discrimination and police brutality.
  • Macron acknowledged and condemned racism in the country, but said he would not order the removal of colonial-era statues.
  • The Associated Press reported that at least 15,000 people demonstrated in Paris one day before Macron's speech, demanding action on the country's remaining ties with the slave trade and former colonies in Africa.
  • For more articles, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday that the country stands against racism in the wake of George Floyd's death, but will not follow other countries in removing colonial-era statues.

In a televised address aired Sunday evening, Macron made his first remarks on protests that broke out in the US and cities across the world over Floyd's death, systematic racism, and police brutality against minorities.

At least 15,000 people demonstrated in Paris one day before Macron's speech, the Associated Press reported. Demonstrations in France have taken aim at the country's remaining ties to its former colonies in Africa, including protesters who tried to remove African artwork from a Paris museum.

Macron lamented how someone's "address, name, color of skin" dictate their success in French society, and promised he would lead the charge to be "uncompromising in the face of racism, anti-Semitism, and discrimination" so that every person can have a place in society, according to the AP.

However, the AP reported the president stopped short of bowing to calls to take down statues tied to France's slave trade and colonial holdings, saying "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 past relations with Africa in the spirit of "truth" and not "denying who we are," Macron said, according to the AP.

Macron previously declared colonisation as a "crime against humanity," which multiple reports characterised as the sharpest words against France's historical wrongs from a French politician.

Macron's speech also served as an update for the country amid the coronavirus pandemic. He announced that beginning June 15, the country's restaurants and bars would open fully.

Countries like the US and England have also been grappling with the issue of statues that are remnants of the Confederacy. Protesters have forcibly removed some and others have been taken down, like Jefferson Davis from the Kentucky state capitol, in the past week, but plenty remain.

President Donald Trump and Congress have come to a head on the issue, as members have introduced actions to rename assets and topple statues erected in honour of the Confederacy.

Trump has dismissed the motions, in part writing on Twitter "our history as the Greatest Nation in the World will not be tampered with. Respect our Military!"

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