Activist Fined for Defacing Statue, Lawyer Accuses Court of Being Slavery Apologists

A French Black rights activist was convicted on Monday after he defaced a statue of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, a royal minister who wrote the rules governing French overseas colonies' slaves.

The activist, Franco Lollia, was convicted of spraying "State Negrophobia" in red paint on a statue of Colbert. The man's lawyer accused the court of being slave apologists and that they were trying to make his client appear to be a delinquent, the Associated Press reported.

The court ruled that Lollia would pay a 500 euro fine ($597) and another 1,040 euros ($1,241) for the damages to the statue, which is located outside the French Parliment building, the fine was less than the 800-euro fine the prosecutor had sought.

Lollia and his lawyer, Guy Florentin, announced they will appeal the ruling and have asked the statue of Colbert be removed.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Jean-Baptiste Colbert Statue French National Assembly
A picture taken on June 11, 2020 in Paris shows a statue representing French statesman Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1619-1683) and a French flag on the frontispiece of the Palais Bourbon where the French National Assembly is located. Joel Saget/Getty Images

Among other cruelties, Colbert's notorious "Black Code" allowed for slaves to be branded, have their ears cut off and be executed for escape attempts. The vandalized Colbert statue stands prominently outside the lower house of Parliament in Paris.

Lollia said his act was purely political.

"We feel deeply insulted. They spit in our face democratically every day with this statue in front of the National Assembly, the so-called house of the people," he said.

"State negrophobia has won a battle but not the war. We will continue our fight," he told reporters. "We are also going to sue the authorities for defending crimes against humanity" over the French state's role in slave trading.

The vandalism came a month after the killing of American George Floyd at the hands of U.S. police, which galvanized anti-racism activists in France and other countries.

During the May 10 trial — which coincided with France's annual commemoration of the abolition of slavery -- Lollia's defense team had put France on trial, detailing and denouncing colonial atrocities.

After the verdict, the activist said he wasn't disappointed.

"One of the reasons for this action, why we did it, was to make this trial a platform," he said. "It was to force white French justice to take off its mask of so-called democracy, equality for all and social and racial justice for all."

French Black rights activist Franco Lollia
Franco Lollia, an activist from a group called the "Anti-Negrophobia Brigade» waits for his verdict at the Paris courthouse, Monday, June 28, 2021 in Paris. French activist Franco Lollia for Black rights is on trial in Paris for defacing a statue of a historical figure from France's colonial, slave-trading past. Lewis Joly/Associated Press