I think it’s fair to say that Paris is awash in statues and monuments. It’s one of the things I love about the city. If you don’t watch your step you might collide with one of the hundreds of magnificent landmarks scattered about in every arrondissement, reminders of the glorious (and at times not-so-glorious) chapters of French history.
Following the spontaneous swell of unrest in the United States in response to the murder of George Floyd, a collective lens has turned its eye upon historic statues founded upon dubious ethical and moral foundations. This critical assessment of public monuments has spread like wildfire across the globe and Paris has not been spared from protests and acts of vandalism aimed at statues perceived as colonial and racist.
Statues that liberate or frustrate
I have no intention of wading into the fraught waters of whether or not these monuments merely record past history or whether they should in fact be relegated to the vast dumping ground of history. However, these current events have illustrated just how powerful public symbols can be. Statues such as the Statue of Liberty for instance, can galvanize an entire nation while removal of public monuments can set in motion a series of events that lead to unprecedented dire consequences.