FORT FRANCE: Anti-racism activists have torn down a statue of Napoleon’s empress Josephine and another colonial figure in the overseas French territory of Martinique, the latest test of President Emmanuel Macron’s vow not to erase controversial monuments.
A statue of Josephine de Beauharnais, who was born to a wealthy colonial family on the island and later became Napoleon’s first wife and empress, was attacked by a crowd of people wielding clubs and ropes, according to a journalist in Fort-de-France on Sunday.
The emperor reintroduced slavery in French colonies in 1802, eight years after it had been banned under the French Revolution. Josephine’s statue was decapitated nearly 30 years ago and never repaired.
A short distance away, the activists also destroyed a statue of Pierre Belain d’Esnambuc, the trader who established the first French colony on Martinique in 1635.
In Paris, Prime Minister Jean Castex tweeted that he “very strongly condemns the acts of vandalism committed yesterday in Fort-de-France.” “Violence, even if symbolic, and hate will never help to progress a cause,” he added.
Activists had warned a week ago in a video on social media that the statues would be targeted unless officials had them removed by Sunday.
A police source said they were ordered not to intervene by France’s top official on the Caribbean island, though he denounced the action in a statement as “unacceptable actions by a violent minority.”
Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2020