Story By: Joseph Golder, Sub-Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Newsflash
This is the moment a black rights activist throws red paint on a statue of 17th-Century ‘Black Code’ author Colbert outside the French parliament in Paris and is detained by police officers brandishing assault rifles.
A spokesperson for the collective behind the move told Newsflash they did it to create “a real debate” because their voices “are not being heard” and that black people around the world are currently the subjects of “a war”.
The incident took place in the heart of the French capital Paris, at the Assemblee Nationale (National Assembly, the lower house of France’s parliament).
Footage lasting over 11 minutes shows a black man throwing red paint on the statue of Colbert outside the Assemblee Nationale in Paris and being arrested by police. It was filmed and shared on Facebook by an activist organisation called the “Brigade Anti Negrophobie” (BAN).
The footage starts with the members of the collective exiting an underground station just next to the Assemblee Nationale. They calmly walk up to the statue of Colbert in front of the building.
One of the men quickly does a graffiti saying “Negrophobie d’Etat” (‘State Negrophobia’) on the statue before standing back as the person filming shouts: “They’re coming! They’re coming!”
He quickly throws a canister of red paint at the statue.
Then an armed police officer – technically a gendarme, a police force that is part of the army – emerges from behind the gated entrance to the building pointing an assault rifle at the graffiti artist activist and shouting: “On the ground! On the ground! On the ground!”
The activist drops his bag and puts his hands up as a second armed police officer arrives on the scene.
A heated discussion ensues as a third police officer arrives, with some pushing taking place.
One of the officers asks the person filming to stop, but they reply: “I can’t do that. This is what I am here for.”
The officer does not look amused and puts his hands on his hips.
Meanwhile, the activist who did the graffiti on the statue can be seen speaking with the other officers.
He says: “The racists are on the other side of the Assembly. This is a statue [unintelligible] negrophobia, the murder of black people, the rape of black people, the torture of black people, and instead of stopping the people who endorse this cruelty, they come and arrest me.”
A police officer says: “It is forbidden…”
But the activist is having none of it and vociferously retorts: “No, what’s forbidden is racism!”
As the discussion continues, the activist can be heard saying: “France is a negrophobic state.”
Eventually, the gendarmes manage to convince the activist to put his hands behind his back so they can handcuff him and take him into custody.
Speaking to Newsflash, a spokesperson for the BAN collective who gave the name Issa, said: “We fight against racism and ‘negrophobia’.”
When asked to define ‘negrophobia’, Issa told Newsflash: “Negrophobia is linked to racism against black people, from the occidental Christian slave trade of black people, who deported millions of Africans, it is linked with colonialism and the deadly ideology carried out against black children, women and black men.”
When asked why that statue was chosen, Issa said: “It could have been another statue too as there are plenty of statues of people who have carried out massacres and tortured black people, but Colbert is a particular symbol, he authored the Black Code, and it put into law that black men and women are movable property. It codified the dehumanisation of black people.”
He added that any potential positive sides of colonialism were greatly outweighed by the misdeeds carried out by colonial powers.
Issa also said that the man seen throwing the red paint is called Franco Lollia and that he is still currently in custody. It is unclear at this point if he has been charged.
Asked about the George Floyd incident and events in the United States, Issa said: “I think there are similarities between France and the USA. Both practised slavery and legislated the dehumanisation of black people and their deportation.”
He added that the goal of the Brigade Anti Negrophobie is to create a real debate because their “voices are not being heard politically”, adding that “the situation of black people in France, in Brazil, in the USA, is, if we are being honest, that we are the last on the list, we are colonised by everyone, we don’t have access to our own culture, we are really in a phase where we have to resist because there is a war going on against us.”
A minister of French King Louis XIV, Jean-Baptiste Colbert is considered to be the initiator of the ‘Black Code’, written in 1685 and which legislated on slavery in the French colonies.
The Brigade Anti Negrophobie is an activist collective that denounces “negrophobia” as “a (neo) colonial weapon of mass destruction that does not admit its name!”