Tags: France | Racism

Racist Incident in French Parliament Triggers Condemnations

Friday, 04 November 2022 09:00 AM EDT

PARIS (AP) — A Black lawmaker said Friday he was “deeply hurt” after a far-right member of the French parliament made a racist remark during a legislative session, something that has triggered condemnations from across the political spectrum.

The comments shocked many, up to France’s president himself, and raised new questions about xenophobia on the far right and other parts of French society.

Gregoire de Fournas of the far-right National Rally party was heard shouting the words "return to Africa” at the lawmaker, Carlos Martens Bilongo, who was challenging the government Thursday about migrants stranded at sea.

The words prompted immediate uproar in the legislature, leading the president of the National Assembly to suspend the session and launch an investigation. A meeting of the Assembly’s managing body was set on Friday afternoon to decide about potential sanctions.

Due to the uproar and the muffling of the words, it was unclear whether de Fournas said that Bilongo should return to Africa or that the migrants should.

French anti-racist groups stressed that regardless of who was targeted, the comments echo a racist insult toward Black people being told to go back to Africa.

French group SOS Racisme called it "the true face of the far-right: that of racism.” Its president, Dominique Sopo, said “obviously they are extremely violent comments,” no matter what de Fournas was saying precisely.

Speaking Friday on French news broadcaster BFM TV, Bilongo called for de Fournas’ resignation.

He said he received thousands of messages following the incident from people telling him that they hear similar comments in their everyday life. The words “speak to many French who felt hurt,” Bilongo said.

Bilongo, who is from the hard-left France Unbowed party, praised the immediate reaction of anger shown by a large majority of lawmakers from across the political spectrum.

The International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism condemned the comments as “disgusting” and showing “blatant inhumanity."

De Fournas said he was referring to migrants at sea and not, as some understood, to his fellow lawmaker. “I fully stand by my comments about the anarchic migratory policies of our country,” he tweeted Friday.

France Unbowed called for a gathering Friday near the National Assembly to support Bilongo.

The Elysee said that President Emmanuel Macron was shocked by the words which are “unacceptable in or outside" the assembly.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said he was “extremely shocked," telling BFM TV and that it was the first in his 15 years of political life that he heard such “ignominious” words in the body.

The National Rally is the party of far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who lost her third bid for the French presidency to Macron in April. The subsequent legislative elections led to a major breakthrough for the party, which won 89 seats in the 577-member lower house of parliament, up from a previous total of eight.

Le Pen tweeted that de Fournas was “obviously speaking about the migrants transported in ships by NGOs."

“The controversy created by our political adversaries is gross and won't deceive the French,” she said.

© Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


GlobalTalk
A Black lawmaker said Friday he was "deeply hurt" after a far-right member of the French parliament made a racist remark during a legislative session, something that has triggered condemnations from across the political spectrum.The comments shocked many, up to France's...
France,Racism
508
2022-00-04
Friday, 04 November 2022 09:00 AM
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