Emmanuel Macron: France will not 'erase its history' and take down controversial statues
The fight against racism should not lead to a "hateful" rewriting of history, said Emmanuel Macron.
The French president made a public television speech from the Élysée Palace on Sunday evening after weeks of global protests against Black Lives Matter.
Some protesters have targeted statues of historical figures who have been linked to slavery or other past human rights violations.
In Bristol, a bronze monument to slave trader Edward Colston was demolished as part of an anti-racism demonstration.
Similar protests have taken place around the world and many authorities have removed controversial statues, but Macron told the French people that he would not follow suit.
Protesters erected monuments during the largely peaceful protests against racism in Paris over the weekend. (Abdulmonam Eassa / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
He said: "I will be very clear tonight, compatriots: the Republic will not delete a name from its history. None of his works of art will be forgotten, no statues will be dismantled. "
It was the first time since George Floyd's death in the US city of Minneapolis on May 25 that Macron had spoken on the subject and triggered protests around the world.
Demonstrations have been held regularly in France over the past three weeks, some of which have resulted in peaceful events leading to clashes between demonstrators and riot police.
Macron said that a person's "address, name, skin color" can reduce their chances of success in French society and called for a fight to ensure that everyone could find "their place" regardless of their ethnic origin or religion.
The Paris riot police fired tear gas to dispel a largely peaceful but unauthorized protest near the Place de la Republique over the weekend. Meetings of more than 10 people are currently banned in France due to corona virus containment measures. (Abdulmonam Eassa / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
He promised "to be uncompromising in the face of racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination".
He insisted, however, that France would not remove statues of controversial colonial figures.
Read more: Emmanuel Macron is exempt from quarantine in Britain before Prince Charles' visit
Amid the call to dismantle statues associated with France's slave trade or colonial injustice, Macron said, "The Republic will not erase any trace or name from its history ... it will not dismantle a statue."
"We should look at our whole story together," he said with the aim of "truth" instead of "denying who we are."
The French Prime Minister claimed that the fight against racism was damaged by "separatists".
He said: “It is necessary to unite for Republican patriotism. We are a nation in which everyone - regardless of their origin and religion - can find their place. "
While some UK monuments have also been removed by local authorities, Boris Johnson has taken a similar stance to Macron.
Protesters roll a statue of slave trader Edward Colston into the Avon River during heated protests in Bristol, demanding that other monuments be removed. (Giulia Spadafora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)
The British Prime Minister said it was "absurd and shameful" that the statue of Sir Winston Churchill in Parliament Square was attacked by violent protesters.
Johnson said, "We cannot censor our past."
Read more: Sadiq Khan defends boarding the Winston Churchill statue
He said Churchill was a "hero and he deserved his monument".
The Prime Minister's comments come after Churchill's statue was boarded up before the planned racism protests last weekend. The protests were canceled after extreme violence threatened violence.
The statue of Winston Churchill was blurred at an anti-racist demonstration on June 7th with the words "was a racist". (Isabel Infantes / AFP via Getty Images)
A statue of Sir Winston Churchill in Parliament Square was protected with scaffolding after being attacked by anti-racist protesters during the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. (Hollie Adams / Getty Images)
Police clash with extreme right-wing demonstrators in protest against "wax statues" in London. (PA)
On Saturday, police clashed with organized gangs that gathered in Parliament Square, and Whitehall claimed to guard monuments.
The footage showed demonstrators throwing bottles at riot officers. Demonstrators also appeared to be flinging smoke bombs.
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