A statue of Christopher Columbus has been defaced by anti-racist activists, who have graffitied the words “murderer”, “rapist” and “supporter of slavery” on it.
Red paint was tossed over the monument as well as the inflammatory words.
The incident took place in the French city of Rouen, the capital of the northern Normandy region.
It comes after statues of the celebrated Italian explorer faced a similar fate in the USA earlier this month, with many being taken down, toppled or decapitated by protesters.
Those critical of Columbus (1451-1506) accuse him of having been the cause of the massacre of indigenous Americans, after claiming to have “discovered” the country.
The people of Rouen, however, seem split over the incident with many on social media and quoted in local media arguing that the act was vandalism and that a discussion needs to be had about whether controversial statues should be removed or not.
They say that they should not be arbitrarily defaced, destroyed or vandalised.
The Mayor of Rouen, Yvon Robert, 70, does not intend to file a complaint but was quoted in local media as saying: “Debating a subject is always legitimate, it can nevertheless be done without vandalism!”
Many statues and tributes to controversial figures from the past, including slave traders, have been torn down by protesters in recent weeks as part of the international Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
Columbus, who was for a long time considered the “discoverer of America”, is now portrayed by many historians as the instigator of massacres of indigenous populations and mass pillaging.
He and his men were responsible for many acts of brutality against the native population, from physical violence to infecting them with new diseases such as smallpox.
Anti-Columbus sentiment is also gaining popularity in the public opinion.
There have been calls among American activists to get rid of the national holiday Columbus Day on October 12.
In 1992, Jacques Chirac, then Mayor of Paris, refused to allow the city to celebrate the 500-year anniversary of the ‘discovery’ of America, explaining that Columbus’ expedition was more a “calamity” than a great moment in history.