Historic monuments torn down or defaced in protest

Protests against France's new pension reform plan turned destructive on March 23

Stars Insider

24/03/23 | StarsInsider


The people of France rose up in nationwide protests on March 23 in response to the government's proposed pension reforms. It was announced the previous week that the pension age was being raised from 62 to 64. Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, acting under the instruction of President Macron, evoked an article in the constitution that allowed her to introduce the unpopular reform without a parliamentary vote. Protests broke out all over France, but it was Macron's TV appearance on Wednesday, March 22, that pushed protests to a fever pitch. He acknowledged that the protests were valid, but said that he would not bend to public pressure and vowed to push through the law. 

On March 23, millions of people gathered in an estimated 200 protests across the country. In Paris, a group of hundreds of thousands marched through the city. A historical day of nationwide civil action was marred by the outbreak of violence and destruction by small groups in some areas. In Paris, protestors clashed with police in several of the main squares. In the Place de la République, a large statue known as the Monument à la République was set on fire. 

In the southwestern city of Bordeaux, the doors of the historical city hall were set on fire. The facade of the neoclassical building, built in 1771, sustained serious damage as the tall wooden doors burned through the night. The Monument à la République in Paris and the city hall in Bordeaux are both symbols of the French republic and a government that has earned the disdain and outrage of its citizens. 

This destruction of symbolic monuments is not without precedent. The events of the summer of 2020 saw anti-racism protestors tearing down and defacing statues of figures who upheld racist beliefs. These are monuments that were put up to mark history, but which have become increasingly seen as symbols of a dark legacy.

This action has been taken in the past for both positive and negative causes. But what’s the same across the board is how effective the statement is. Besides not having a constant reminder of a power structure that opposes your current values, monuments being torn down have often done more to inform people of history than the structures themselves did in all the years they stood.

Click through this gallery to see how other monuments have become a focus of protests, and for remarkable instances of toppled statues from the past.

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