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Trial begins for man who defaced Colbert statue in Paris court

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Trial begins for a man accused of covering in graffiti a statue that honors Jean-Baptiste Colbert in Paris on Monday.

Colbert was a 17th century royal minister who wrote rules governing slaves in France's overseas colonies.

As he arrived for trial, Franco Lollia, an activist from a group called the Anti-Negrophobia Brigade, told journalists that Colbert "is a major figure" of the colonial past.

"Racial discrimination, especially against black people - even though there is some racial discrimination against others - those about negrophobia, come from the colonial past and Colbert is a major figure of this colonial past, this past where black people were not recognized as human beings", he said.

In June 2020, a statue in front of the French parliament building was covered in graffiti. Anti-racism activists have been campaigning to have the statue taken down.

The statue of Colbert was one of many historical figures tied to slavery or colonialism.

"The system itself is negrophobic from the moment it doesn't put into question the history. France is capable of healing from its negrophobia and from its state racism in general, but the French state must learn to face its history, and not only (the) part of the history (that) it likes. For example, the statue of Colbert was carved to the glory of the white supremacy. What we did, and people didn't understand it, we listened to President Macron who was saying France was facing its entire history. We wanted to help him follow through. because there were some reluctant people inside his own government", Lollia added.

Colbert, is celebrated in France for an economic doctrine known as "colbertism'', which relies on the idea that state intervention is needed to serve the country's economy and wealth.