Paris statues of Voltaire and a colonial-era general splashed with red paint

Two Paris statues related to France’s colonial era were found covered in red paint on Monday amid global calls to take down monuments commemorating figures with links to slavery or colonialism.

One of the statues drenched in red was of Voltaire, a leading thinker and writer of the French Enlightenment but who owed part of his fortune to colonial-era trade.

The statue of French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire was discovered daubed in red paint early on Monday.
The statue of French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire was discovered daubed in red paint early on Monday. © Gonzalo Fuentes, REUTERS

The other honours Hubert Lyautey, a general and colonial administrator who served in Morocco, Algeria, Madagascar and Indochina when they were under French control, and later was France’s minister of war during World War I.

Both statues are located near the gold-domed Invalides monument that houses Napoleon’s tomb. 

Two other French monuments were targeted over the weekend, including in the northern city of Lille, where the words “coloniser” and “assassin” were painted over the plinth of a statue of Louis Faidherbe, a 19th century general and former governor of Senegal.

The actions come amid growing demands by anti-racism activists in several countries to take down monuments that honour prominent historical figures who played a role in the slave trade or colonialism in the wake of global protests sparked by the May 25 death of George Floyd in the United States.

The global movement has inspired France’s biggest anti-racism protests in decades, and revived a debate about the country’s colonial legacy and its role in the slave trade.

Touching on the subject during a televised address on June 14, French President Emmanuel Macron said fighting racism should not lead to a “hateful” re-writing of history.

“I will be very clear tonight, compatriots: The Republic won’t erase any name from its history. It will forget none of its artworks, it won’t take down statues,” he said.

“We should look at all of our history together,” including relations with Africa, with a goal of “truth” instead of “denying who we are”, Macron added.

(FRANCE 24 & AP)

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