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‘We won’t erase names from our history’: As France opens borders, Macron vows war on racism but rules out toppling statues

‘We won’t erase names from our history’: As France opens borders, Macron vows war on racism but rules out toppling statues
While promising to fight racism and discrimination, France will not tear down any statues, whatever backgrounds they have, President Emmanuel Macron pledged. Erasing history equals “denying who we are,” he said.

The French Republic “will not erase any trace, or any name, from its history,” Macron stated in a televised address. France “will not take down any statue,” he said, perhaps in reference to the neighboring UK or Belgium, where statues connected to slavery or colonial rule have been pulled down or defaced.

Addressing the protesters’ grievances, the president acknowledged that people could have difficulties succeeding in French society due to their “address, name, color of skin.” He promised to be “uncompromising in the face of racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination,” so that everyone can have equal opportunities regardless of race or religion.

However, tearing down monuments, including controversial ones, is of little use, he said, as there needs to be honest dialogue instead of “revisiting or denying who we are.”

We must lucidly look together at our whole history, all our memories, and our relationship with Africa in particular.

France has seen massive protests against racism and police brutality in recent days, which gained momentum in the wake of demonstrations in the US over the death of George Floyd, an African American man in Minnesota, at the hands of police.

Protesters have also invoked the name of Adama Traore, a French Malian black man who died four years ago in circumstances similar to the death of Floyd. At the time, three officers placed their weight on the man to restrain him, and he lost consciousness and could not be revived.

The government tried to cool down the tensions, banning police from using chokehold and chest-pinning techniques while making arrests. The measures, however, drew the ire of police rank-and-file, with their unions staging a separate protest in downtown Paris last week.

Macron also spoke on the Covid-19 epidemic in the country. He declared the whole of mainland France a “green zone,” meaning cafés and restaurants in Paris can open their doors to customers this Monday, almost two weeks later than the rest of the country.

France – which has registered over 194,000 coronavirus cases and more than 29,400 deaths – is also opening its borders with other EU nations; travelers from Spain and the UK will still have to self-isolate for 14 days “on the principle of reciprocity.” Travel between France and countries outside the EU will be allowed starting July 1.

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