The French lower house of parliament was suspended on Thursday evening after a far-right MP yelled at a black legislator to “go back to Africa.” The remark caused a major uproar and was deemed racist and unacceptable by the left-wing alliance and the centrist administration.
Carlos Martens Bilongo had been taking the centrist administration to task over a maritime rescue vessel in the Mediterranean carrying hundreds of migrants without a designated port.
Gregoire de Fournas, a 37-year-old member of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, made the outburst. He later claimed that his words weren’t directed at Mr. Martens Bilongo, but rather at migrants who were sailing to Europe.
After he finished speaking, other MPs began shouting aggressively at him and at one another. This uproar resulted in the suspension of the parliament’s session.
Responding to the incident, the French prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, declared that racism has no place in our democracy. The National Assembly’s Bureau will meet and decide if Mr. Fournas is to be sanctioned.
President Emmanuel Macron’s party, chaired by Stephane Sejourne, demanded that Mr. de Fournas step down, while the left-wing Nupes coalition argued that he should be expelled.
In a statement, Nupes claimed that “the National Rally has shown its true colors today. This racial outburst is typical of the far-right: stigmatize based on skin color, divide the French people.”
Right-wing politics characterized by racists and white supremacists has been growing in Europe in the past ten years. Many analysts have argued that Europe is still largely racist, but only the far right wing politics are bold enough to show that they are racist.
However, Ms. Le Pen, leader of the far-right party, argued that her colleague didn’t say anything inappropriate, stating that he “clearly spoke about the migrants ferried in boats.” “The French won’t be fooled by this controversy created by our political rivals,” she said.
Mr. Martens Bilongo, 31, a former teacher and political activist, was surprised by the comment made by Mr. Fournas. However, when responding to the incident, he was very calm and stated that “I asked a question to the government, as is done every week in the Assembly, except that I was unable to finish my question because a National Rally deputy cut me off by yelling at me, “Go back to Africa!”
He added, “I never imagined hearing these remarks spoken in the National Assembly.” However, racism always surfaces, even in the most respected locations in the country.
The French-born politician argued that the remarks were “unjustifiable” even if they had been directed towards the immigrants rather than him, asking, “Has racism gotten so normalized that this sentence has become acceptable?”
“This incident serves as a reminder of what the far-right represents in France: contempt for institutions and hatred for millions of our fellow citizens,” he added.
Mr. Bilongo was disappointed by the incident, stating that “I had invited young people from my district to the Assembly on this particular Thursday so they could proudly witness my question to the government.”
However, the legislator was defiant, stating that “I shall continue to carry out my duties on their behalf without ever having to defend myself because of the color of my skin.”