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24 Apr, 2020 15:33

‘Political repression’: Woman detained by police in France for displaying ‘Macronavirus’ banner on garden wall

‘Political repression’: Woman detained by police in France for displaying ‘Macronavirus’ banner on garden wall

A French woman was reprimanded by police for displaying a banner with the words “Macronavirus, when is the end?” outside of her home as social tensions grow amid a strict Covid-19 lockdown.

The woman complied with a police order to remove the banner on April 21, but officers returned a day later with a summons for a hearing on April 23. When she showed up, she was taken into custody for “contempt.” She was released after four hours, local media reports said. 

The banner that was critical of President Emmanuel Macron had been hung on the woman’s garden wall in Toulouse – and the word “Macronavirus” was a reference to a cover of the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine from January.

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The incident follows several others since early April in which residents in Paris, Marseille and other cities who have displayed banners with “political overtones” have been visited by the police, according to Mediapart.

The woman’s lawyer, Claire Dujardin, said French people were living in a context in which they could “no longer demonstrate” and were dealing with “political police.”

The local branch of the far-left New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) condemned the police action as “political repression,” and said it was a “serious case” of freedom of expression being denied. 

Hanging banners containing political opinions is “one of the rare means” that people have left to express their feelings about the government’s handling of the crisis, NPA said, calling for the “repressive practices” to stop and be condemned by the government.

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France has witnessed growing social unrest and lockdown tensions following an incident in which a police car hit a motorcyclist, setting off a spate of violence in cities including Paris, Toulouse and Lyon, after some witnesses say the officer opened his door to hit the man on purpose.

France’s Human Rights League has criticized police for their heavy-handed “discriminatory and abusive” enforcement of stringent lockdown measures. The French lockdown is expected to be lifted partially on May 11. As of April 24, France has reported almost 160,000 cases of Covid-19 and nearly 22,000 deaths due to the virus.

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